LOS ANGELES (AP)—Jason Johnson, a journeyman in the true sense of the word, never lost faith he’d be back pitching in the majors when his future appeared bleak.
Johnson is back, all right. And he was terrific in his first big league start in nearly two years.
“It’s nice to be back up here,” Johnson said with a smile after pitching six sharp innings to help the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants 2-0 Tuesday night. “It’s something special to me.”
Johnson (1-0), who spent most of the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, scattered five hits while walking none and striking out three before being relieved by Chan Ho Park to start the seventh. The 34-year-old right-hander was making his first start since Aug. 18, 2006, when he pitched for Boston against the New York Yankees, managed at the time by Dodgers skipper Joe Torre.
Johnson, who has pitched for eight major league teams since making his debut with Pittsburgh in 1997, was impressive in spring training, but the Dodgers didn’t have room for him on their roster. He was recalled earlier this month and made two relief appearances before getting an opportunity to start.
“It’s good to be here,” he said. “Vegas was nice, but it’s nothing compared to LA. It’s a lot more fun than pitching in games that don’t mean a lot. I’ve done a lot of that in my career. I’ve pitched for a lot of losing teams.
“If it wasn’t going to be with LA, I had confidence I was going to be with somebody. I know I can still pitch.”
The victory was Johnson’s first since May 28, 2006, with Cleveland. He went a combined 3-12 that season for the Indians, Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds before spending last season with the Seibu Lions in Japan.
Park pitched 1 2-3 hitless innings and Jonathan Broxton got four outs for his fifth save as the Dodgers posted their third shutout in four games. The first two were against the lowly Washington Nationals.
The Dodgers remained one game behind NL West-leading Arizona. Another victory over the Giants on Wednesday night in the finale of a three-game series would move them over .500 for the first time since May 27.
Matt Kemp opened the inning with a single, stole second and went to third on Andre Ethier’s grounder. After Jeff Kent lined to third, Loney hit a 1-2 pitch over shortstop Omar Vizquel’s head to drive in Kemp.
Casey Blake followed with a double down the left-field line. Lewis chased the ball into foul territory and fumbled it into the first row of seats. He grabbed the ball before a fan could and threw it to Vizquel, whose relay to the plate was in plenty of time to get Loney. But the umpires ruled the ball was out of play, meaning Loney came home and Blake went to third.
Lewis said he thought the umpires blew the call.
“There’s not that much foul ground over there, so it’s one of those plays where you just try to get over there and not let the ball get past you,” he said. “It came up and bounced out of my glove, then went on top of the wall and I picked it up. That’s how far it went, and nobody touched it.
“I mean, the ball’s still in play. We told the umpire that, but it was his discretion. He said it was just on top and that it was out of play. But it’s still in play in my eyes. I didn’t understand the rule. It was very disappointing. It makes you want replay in baseball more and more.”
Vizquel, who has played more big league games at shortstop than anyone in history, said he had never seen a play like that.
“That was weird,” he said. “When the ball jumped into the stands, I thought the ball was going to be dead.”
Cain, who dropped to 0-5 in his career against the Dodgers, allowed eight hits and two runs, one earned, in seven innings while walking none and striking out eight. He has allowed only four earned runs in 29 innings in his last four starts. The Giants have scored a total of eight runs in his last seven outings.
Loney hit a shot up the middle that struck Cain on the lower right leg before bouncing into foul territory for a single with one out in the fourth. But Cain seemed fine, striking out three of the next four batters and not allowing another base runner until the sixth.
Dodgers INF Nomar Garciaparra, who has a sprained ligament in his left knee, said he felt better Tuesday and took batting practice to prove it. “I won’t go on the (disabled list),” he said. “I’ll let it calm down, and once it calms down, I’ll be out there.” Garciaparra was injured Sunday. … Teammates Tim Lincecum (156) and Cain (138) are ranked 1-2 in the NL in strikeouts. … Kemp extended his hitting streak to a career-high 16 games—longest by a Dodgers player this season.