The 43-year-old left-hander looks to build off his first win of the year as the Diamondbacks close their three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Sunday.
Johnson (1-2, 4.80 ERA) threw six innings and allowed only one hit to get the decision in Arizona’s 3-0 win at Colorado on Tuesday. He struck out nine batters for the second straight outing.
With the victory, he avoided his first 0-3 start since 1989, when he lost his first four decisions with the Montreal Expos.
“I feel like I’m starting to hit my stride,” said Johnson, who totaled 103 wins from 1999-2004 with Arizona (23-21) and led the Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series title. “Things are starting to come around.”
Johnson, though, left the game after only 79 pitches as he continues to recover from offseason back surgery.
“To think I’m 100 percent now is far from the case,” he said. “I’m getting there, absolutely, and the results indicate that. But let me work into that. I don’t need to go seven innings all the time or eight or nine.”
Johnson looks to continue his success against Pittsburgh (19-23). He is 8-5 with a 2.16 ERA in 13 career starts against the Pirates, including six complete games.
The Diamondbacks tied a franchise record by overcoming a six-run deficit to beat the Pirates 9-8 on Saturday. They also matched their highest run total of the season, set first on April 30. Since that date, Arizona had not exceeded four runs until the first two games of this series, which began with an 11-5 defeat Friday night.
“At this point, we haven’t been consistent offensively, but we have a talented group who will break out of this,” manager Bob Melvin told the team’s official Web site.
The Pittsburgh offense is also streaking despite Saturday’s loss. The Pirates rank 14th in the NL in runs scored, but they are averaging 7.4 runs and batting .311 in their last seven games.
The improved play of Adam LaRoche has been a major factor in Pittsburgh’s resurgence. The first baseman, who batted .133 in April, is hitting .315 in May, including .429 (9-for-21) in his last six games.
Paul Maholm (2-5, 5.67) could use some offense when he takes the mound for the Pirates. The left-hander has gotten 19 runs of support in 46 innings this year, including just one on Tuesday, when he yielded five runs in six innings to suffer the loss in the Pirates’ 9-3 defeat to Florida.
Maholm has posted a 3.55 ERA in two career starts against the Diamondbacks, but hasn’t factored in the decision in either of those games.
Pittsburgh could get a boost from the return of shortstop Jack Wilson, who has missed the last two games with soreness in his shoulder but hopes to return Sunday. Wilson homered against Johnson when the pitcher last visited PNC Park.
“Everything’s fine,” Wilson told the team’s official Web site. “It’s just a little pinch toward the release point. I haven’t been able to give it a full throttle yet.”