For Johnson, it was his worst outing in nearly two months.
Florida’s red-hot right-hander can take over sole possession of the major league lead in ERA as he leads the visiting Marlins against the first-place Atlanta Braves on Friday night.
While Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) has 14 wins and a no-hitter to gain the inside track for the NL Cy Young Award, Johnson (8-3, 1.83 ERA) has equaled Jimenez’s ERA after allowing six earned runs in his last nine starts.
The 6-foot-7 Johnson had worked at least six innings while allowing no more than one run in eight consecutive outings before Saturday, when San Diego ended the longest such streak since Bob Gibson in 1968 by notching two runs and five hits off Johnson to hand him a 2-1 defeat.
Johnson, whose 23-8 record since the start of last year is the majors’ third-best, was hard on himself despite another standout performance.
“I didn’t do my job,” Johnson said. “We had one run. I gave up two. That’s not doing your job.”
Still, opponents have managed a .545 on-base plus slugging percentage against Johnson, the lowest of any pitcher in the majors. Although the Braves haven’t seen him this year, Johnson has excelled against Atlanta in the past, going 4-2 with a 2.74 ERA in 12 appearances - 11 starts.
The Braves (46-33) have taken two of three from Detroit and Washington to begin their homestand, remaining atop the NL East and improving to a major league-best 33-15 since May 10.
“I’ve just gone out and done what’s got me here, which is battle and throw strikes and compete,” Medlen said. “That’s all you can really ask from the starters.”
Atlanta is likely asking for more from its offense, which is trying to replace outfielder Jason Heyward(notes) while the star rookie is on the disabled list recovering from a thumb injury. The Braves have hit .217 while averaging 3.0 runs in their last eight games.
Florida (37-41) arrives at Turner Field after racking up 22 runs and 39 hits while taking two of three from the Mets in Puerto Rico this week. The Marlins had seven runs during a four-game losing streak before the series.
“We’ve got to keep playing like we did in Puerto Rico,” Johnson told MLB’s official website. “We’ll go to Atlanta and try to keep winning series.”
This is the Marlins’ first visit to Atlanta, where they went 6-3 last year. The Braves took two of three in Miami from May 25-27.
Florida, opening a 10-game road trip, has won five of its last seven away from home.