After missing his last turn in the rotation, Johnson hopes to help the Diamondbacks make up ground in the NL West race as they continue a three-game series on Saturday night against the Cincinnati Reds.
Although Arizona (72-74) ended its season-high skid with a 3-2 victory in Friday’s series opener behind Brandon Webb’s 20th win, it remained 3 1/2 games behind the West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers with 16 games remaining.
“Every win right now is a must-win for the whole team,” Webb said.
If the Diamondbacks are unable to catch the Dodgers, they will look back on that slide as the moment their season slipped away. The losing streak started with three consecutive losses at Dodger Stadium that knocked them from first place in the division and continued with three defeats at San Francisco.
Arizona’s shaky bullpen nearly blew Webb’s victory in the ninth. Closer Brandon Lyon gave up four base hits, including a two-run single by pinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger, before Chad Qualls struck out pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr.
“Hey, a win’s a win,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “That’s what we talked about earlier today. That’s what we were looking to do was win a game, and we did.”
Johnson (10-9, 4.21 ERA) was originally scheduled to start Sunday against the Dodgers, but was sidelined with shoulder fatigue. The left-hander, who turned 45 on Wednesday, pitched very well in eight straight second-half starts before he was reached for five runs and six hits—including four homers—over a season-low 3 2-3 innings in Arizona’s 8-6 win over St. Louis on Sept. 1.
“The bottom line is I’m pretty happy with the way the year has went health-wise,” said Johnson, who has had two major back surgeries in the past two years. “Numbers-wise, obviously not.”
Johnson has pitched well against the Reds in his career, going 3-3 with a 1.53 ERA in nine starts, but this will be his first appearance against them since Aug. 20, 2004.
Regardless of Johnson’s performance, winning two straight won’t be easy for Arizona with an offense that has scored 17 runs and batted .194 in the last seven games.
Facing Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez (16-5, 3.23) won’t make the task any less difficult. Volquez, making his third attempt at his 17th victory, had a chance at a 20-win season, but that seems unlikely now that he has won only once in his last four starts.
He threw a season-high 119 pitches in 5 2-3 innings at Milwaukee on Monday, giving up five runs, four hits and three walks as the Reds rallied for a 5-4 victory.
Volquez, who has never faced the Diamondbacks, is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his last five road starts.
Arizona’s Adam Dunn went 0-for-3 with a bases-loaded walk in his first game against his former team. Dunn was acquired from the Reds on Aug. 11.
Cincinnati (66-81) has played seven straight games against playoff-contending teams, going 4-3 during that span.
Diamondbacks left fielder Conor Jackson was out of Friday’s lineup due to a sore right shoulder and Melvin said he could return to the lineup in a few days. Jackson, third on the team with 72 RBIs this season, doesn’t know how he was injured.