Atlanta Braves sluggers Chipper Jones and Brian McCann couldn’t stop Florida Marlins starter Josh Johnson from having the best game of his career. After some rest, they’ll likely get another shot at facing Johnson.
Johnson and the Florida Marlins look to shut down the Braves and their All-Star duo for the second time in less than a week when the teams open a three-game series Monday.
Florida (69-68) lost 6-2 to the NL East-leading New York Mets on Sunday, leaving the third-place Marlins seven games back in the division and in desperate need of another strong start from Johnson (4-0, 3.12 ERA).
Johnson threw a four-hitter for his first career complete game Wednesday night, striking out eight as Florida beat Atlanta 4-1.
“Just back to the drawing board,” Johnson told the Marlins’ official Web site. “I like to at least face another team between that, but what can you do?”
The right-hander, who returned July 10 for his first start since undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery last August, previously pitched a career-high 7 2-3 innings on Aug. 28, 2006, against Milwaukee.
On Wednesday, Johnson improved to 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA in eight career games - seven starts - against the Braves (59-78).
Jones and McCann went a combined 1-for-8 versus Johnson. Both players were out of the lineup Sunday, when Atlanta lost 8-4 to Washington for its 16th loss in 20 games.
Jones is fighting congestion caused by allergies and McCann was due for a day off after catching Saturday night, but both are expected back in the lineup for this series’ opener.
Jones, batting .359, is jockeying with St. Louis’ Albert Pujols (.364) for the majors’ top batting average. The veteran third baseman is batting .472 (25-for-53) with five home runs and 11 RBIs in 15 games against Florida this season.
McCann, meanwhile, is batting .296 on the season, giving him a chance to hit over .300 for the second time in his first three full major league seasons. He leads all major league catchers with 23 home runs.
“Honestly, I (couldn’t) care less about hitting .300, or anything like that,” McCann said. “All I want to do is play hard and have us put together some kind of streak to carry into the offseason.”
If McCann is back in the lineup, his batterymate will be Mike Hampton (2-2, 5.85). The left-hander matched up with Johnson on Wednesday, giving up three runs and eight hits in eight solid innings but taking the loss.
Hampton dropped to 10-7 with a 4.47 ERA in 24 career appearances (23 starts) against Florida, which went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position Sunday. The Marlins are batting .246 while averaging 3.0 runs over their last four games, three of them losses.
“I think we have a run in us where we’ll win five, six, seven in a row,” Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I still believe that.”
The Braves own a 9-6 edge over the Marlins in their 2008 meetings, and with one win this week will clinch the season series.