J.J. looks to regroup

Dependable and durable have been two of the traits that have separated Josh Johnson from many starters in the National League.

The Marlins and their fans have been spoiled seeing Johnson work at least six or seven innings every time out. That’s why watching the 25-year-old ace exit after 4 1/3 innings on Thursday night at Houston was alarming.

Johnson simply had an off night against the Astros, suffering the loss after giving up four runs on seven hits with two strikeouts and a walk.

“It was funny because he warmed up really good,” pitching coach Mark Wiley said. “He was pulling his slider, and he wasn’t getting his changeup over.”

With an ineffective slider and changeup, Johnson relied more heavily on his fastball.

“There are certain teams that are really good fastball-hitting teams,” Wiley said. “When you’re not getting your off-speed pitches over for strikes enough, which J.J. didn’t yesterday, it doesn’t matter how hard you throw.

“When he’s not getting his off-speed pitches over, sometimes that leads to a little less consistency on the height and depth on his fastball. That’s pretty much happened yesterday. It’s one of those things that happens.”

Johnson, now 12-3, saw his ERA rise to 2.99. The 6-foot-7 right-hander takes the mound next on Wednesday against the Mets at Land Shark Stadium. At home, Johnson has an ERA of 2.09, and his night time ERA is 2.83.

The one thing you won’t see is Johnson dwelling on a sub-par start.

“He doesn’t change. I know he’s disappointed,” Wiley said. “But he wasn’t ballistic about it. He will get back after it and get back like Ricky did.”

The Marlins certainly hope for a rebound performance from Johnson like Ricky Nolasco recently had. Nolasco gave up a career most 10 runs on Aug. 12 to the Astros, and then recovered with a three-hit, complete game on Aug. 18 at Minute Maid Park.

— Joe Frisaro



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