Since starting the season with a 7-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on April 5, Johnson is 0-5 in his last seven starts with a 7.67 ERA.
“It’s frustrating that I’m not where I should be,” said Johnson, who signed a $7 million, two-year deal in December. “I’ve never started a season off this bad in my career. I’m going to have to bear down and turn this thing around.”
In his last start, Johnson allowed four runs over five innings as the Tigers suffered a 5-4, 15-inning loss to Oakland on Tuesday.
After taking the series opener 7-1 on Friday, the Tigers suffered a 6-1 setback Saturday.
The Tigers missed out on a chance to get back to .500 for the first time since May 3. But Detroit’s 17 victories are more than it had until the middle of last June en route to an AL-record 119 losses.
“This is a club that impresses me, that continues to fight,” Detroit manager Alan Trammell said. “We have a long way to go, but I like what I see. We’re not a finished product, but we’re on the right track and we’re making progress.”
The easygoing game was jolted briefly in the eighth inning when Detroit reliever Danny Patterson hit Eric Young in the back with a pitch. Several Rangers came out of their dugout as Young screamed at Patterson, and the pitcher shouted back, “It was a changeup!”
The Rangers avoided losing three in a row for the first time this season, and are off to their best 36-game start since 1998.
“It’s a good feeling,” Young said. “We know our pitching is leading the way. If we can continue to do that, we can do some great things this summer.”
STANDINGS (through May 14): Rangers - 2nd place, 2 1/2 GB, AL West. Tigers - 3rd place, 4 1/2 GB, AL Central.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ryan Drese (2-0, 2.60 ERA). In his last start, a 5-4 Texas win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Drese gave up four runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings, but didn’t receive a decision. Drese is 0-0 with a 6.10 ERA in two career starts against Detroit.
TIGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Johnson (1-5, 6.53 ERA). In eight career appearances against Texas, including six starts, Johnson is 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Rangers - Young, .369 avg., 30 RBIs and 33 runs; Blalock, 10 HRs; Soriano, 5 SBs. Tigers - Ivan Rodriguez, .455 avg. and 32 RBIs; Rodriguez and Rondell White, 7 HRs; Carlos Guillen, 29 runs; Alex Sanchez, 8 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tigers, 3-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Rangers - DH Brad Fullmer is 10-for-26 (.385) with two homers in his career against RHP Johnson. … OF Laynce Nix didn’t play Saturday, one day after he was scratched from the lineup because of a sore neck. … OF Brian Jordan is 0-for-9 in his last three games. Tigers - Detroit OF Alex Sanchez (groin) has missed two straight games. … The Tigers are 2-3 on a six-game homestand. … OF White is 8-for-12 (.666) in his last three games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 9-8 on the road; Tigers - 9-11 at home.
INJURIES: Rangers - OF Nix (neck), day-to-day; RHP Doug Brocail (appendectomy), 15-day DL; RHP Colby Lewis (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jeff Nelson (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Mickey Callaway (forearm), 60-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (shoulder), 60-day DL. Tigers - 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; 3B Dmitri Young (leg), 15-day DL; RHP Nate Cornejo (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Fernando Rodney (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Chris Spurling (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Lino Urdaneta (elbow), 60-day DL.