Following that rough outing with another seems rather unlikely.
Johnson (10-5, 2.27 ERA) seemed well on his way to the Cy Young on July 22, when he was 10-3 with a 1.61 ERA after a 12-start stretch in which he posted a 0.75 ERA.
He hasn’t won in four outings since, and struggled through one of the worst games of his career Friday at Cincinnati. The right-hander gave up six runs and 10 hits over 3 2-3 innings, failing to record a strikeout in a 7-2 loss.
“It was terrible all around,” Johnson said. “If I had to rank it, it would be close to the bottom.”
Johnson hadn’t allowed six runs while failing to get through four innings since giving up seven runs over three innings in an 11-1 loss to Minnesota on June 23, 2007.
“It’s just mechanics,” pitching coach Randy St. Claire told the Marlins’ official website. “His command just isn’t sharp. He’s pulling off the ball. Nothing huge.”
Johnson’s ERA has dropped from easily the best in the majors to fourth, but the Marlins (58-60) won’t be surprised if he rebounds Wednesday at PNC Park. Pittsburgh is averaging 3.43 runs and hitting .241, both last in the NL.
The Pirates (40-79) mustered six hits against Ricky Nolasco(notes) and two relievers in a 6-0 loss Tuesday that evened the four-game set at 1-all. The Marlins held a closed-door meeting after Monday’s 7-1 loss.
“Our intensity and our competitiveness was at a different level tonight, and I think our level of having fun was at a higher level, too,” second baseman Dan Uggla(notes) said. “I think everybody showed up with a different attitude today.”
It’s no surprise Pittsburgh has struggled to hit the premier pitching in the NL, but the numbers are still staggering. The nine pitchers other than Johnson that make up the league’s top 10 in ERA are 8-2 with a 1.22 ERA in 12 starts against the Pirates.
In Johnson’s only start versus Pittsburgh, he gave up two runs over seven innings, leaving without a decision in a 5-3 home loss July 20, 2006.
Aside from who Pittsburgh faces, the presence of Ross Ohlendorf(notes) (1-9, 3.95) on the mound seems to guarantee the Pirates’ bats will go cold. No starter who has pitched 50 innings has received less support than the 2.24 runs Ohlendorf averages.
Ohlendorf struck out seven and allowed four hits over 6 2-3 scoreless innings Friday against Houston, but left without a decision in a 4-1 defeat.
“This is what Ross looks like when he’s winning,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “His pitches were working well. His velocity was very good. It was a great game. He really did a nice job. Hopefully we can get him a win someday.”
Ohlendorf was 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against Florida last season. He held the Marlins to two hits in an 8-0 victory at PNC on April 20, 2009.