“During the course of the game, I asked if he had gotten it,” Johnson said. “I knew there was going to be a perfect game possibly somewhere. It just wasn’t mine.”
Indeed, he wasn’t perfect again, nor was Glavine, but Johnson was still good enough to extend his dominance over the Florida Marlins.
Johnson didn’t allow a baserunner until the third inning in his first outing since throwing a perfect game against Atlanta last week, and the Arizona Diamondbacks used a four-run, two-out rally in the fifth inning against Dontrelle Willis to win 4-3.
Johnson extended his string of consecutive batters retired to 39 over his last three starts—two shy of Jim Barr’s major league record set for San Francisco in 1972. But the run ended when Abraham Nunez led off the third with a double.
In seven innings, Johnson (5-4) allowed four hits and two runs with five strikeouts for Arizona, which won for only the third time in its last 11 games. Johnson beat Florida for the seventh time in eight decisions.
“I was just going out there and keeping us in the ballgame,” Johnson said. “I didn’t care whether I threw a perfect game in Atlanta, so I’m sure I didn’t care if I threw a perfect game out there today.”
Added Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly: “It’s pretty tough to compare to his last outing, but he was good enough to win today. That’s all we needed.”
Meanwhile, Glavine was trying to match Johnson’s feat, but settled for a one-hitter in the New York Mets’ win over Colorado.
Shea Hillenbrand, in the lineup because first baseman Richie Sexson’s injured shoulder sent him back to the disabled list earlier in the day, had three hits and a RBI for the Diamondbacks, who also got two hits each from Alex Cintron, Steve Finley and Danny Bautista.
“It’s all for naught,” Conine said. “We battled one of the best pitchers in the history of the game. We had a couple of chances, but it didn’t work out.”
Jose Valverde worked the ninth for his third save, despite allowing Cabrera’s 12th homer of the season to lead off the inning. It was Cabrera’s first home run in 49 at-bats.
Florida took the early lead in the third. Nunez, facing Johnson for the first time and hitting .178 in 44 career games before Sunday, led off with a double down the third-base line and went to third on Willis’ groundout two batters later. He scored on Luis Castillo’s soft single to center for only the second run yielded by Johnson in 19 innings.
Willis (4-3) retired Robby Hammock and Johnson to open the fifth, but quickly found trouble. Matt Kata started the rally with a ground-rule double to center, and scored easily when right fielder Cabrera bobbled Cintron’s single.
Luis Gonzalez—who was mired in a 2-for-18 skid—followed with a double to score Cintron. Hillenbrand then doubled to right, a ball Cabrera appeared to briefly lose in the sun, to knock home Gonzalez, and Finley blooped in a single to center to bring Gonzalez around with the fourth run.
Arizona entered Sunday averaging only 2.4 runs in its last 10 games.
“We need everybody to just do a little bit,” Brenly said. “Get your base hits, take what the pitcher’s giving.”
Willis allowed nine hits and the four earned runs in four innings. Over his last five starts, last year’s NL rookie of the year is 1-3 with an 8.61 ERA—a far cry from the 3-0, 0.71 ERA start he got off to in his first four outings of the season.
“I threw good pitches, but they were hitting the ball,” Willis said. “If you are able to get out of the jam, no one brings it up. Even when I was giving up those hits, I was in a good rhythm.”
Marlins manager Jack McKeon said he was concerned about Willis’ lack of consistency.
“For four innings, he was pretty good. … Then he went to pieces,” McKeon said.
Conine’s solo homer in the sixth made it 4-2. The Marlins got within one on Cabrera’s home and had the tying run at second with one out in the ninth, but Valverde struck out Nunez and got pinch-hitter Lenny Harris to fly out, endingthe game.
Johnson raised his major league-leading strikeout total to 86, bringing him within 43 of 4,000 for his career. … Gonzalez’s fifth-inning RBI was only his fourth in his last 12 road games. … Juan Pierre, who entered the day hitting .392 at home, went 0-for-4. … The paid attendance of 40,819 wasFlorida’s fourth-biggest crowd of the season.