Marlins offer rare support to reward sharp JJ

Marlins offer rare support to reward sharp JJ

Marlins offer rare support to reward sharp JJ
MIAMI -- June hasn't entirely been a lost month for the Marlins.

For all the frustrations the team has endured the past four weeks, one of the biggest signs of promise was the re-emergence of Josh Johnson to ace status.

Johnson stepped up again on Friday night, giving up one run on four hits with six strikeouts in six innings, and the Marlins defeated the Phillies, 6-2, in front of 28,246 at Marlins Park.

For the first time since June 2-3 at Philadelphia, the Marlins have won back-to-back games. In the month, they are 7-18, and they improved their overall record to 36-40, standing ahead of the last-place Phillies in the National League East.

From an individual standpoint, Johnson finished up June with a 2-2 record and a 1.87 ERA (seven earned runs in 33 2/3 innings).

"He's our ace for a reason," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "This kid, little by little, it's coming along very nice. He's throwing the ball well. You can put a nice note, that's maybe the only thing we got good in this month, the most consistent thing we've got this month."

Johnson had a rare outing where he enjoyed some run support. Justin Ruggiano, another standout in the month, continues to be a find for the club. Obtained in a Minor League trade with the Astros on May 27, Ruggiano had a two-run double among three hits.

A concern in the game is reliever Edward Mujica, who was struck on the right foot on Placido Polanco's comebacker, which went for an infield single. Mujica completed the inning, but had an X-ray on his foot, and the team will know more about his availability on Saturday.

The Marlins got to Cliff Lee early and knocked the veteran left-hander out after he allowed six runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"I think we gave [Lee] pretty good at-bats," Guillen said. "I'm not going to take anything away from him. He was cruising around pretty good, and all of a sudden one inning we take advantage. Every time you see this guy, it's the same way. He pitched good, we just had good at-bats against him. We fight for at-bats."

Once the Marlins had a little cushion, Johnson began to cruise. He's showing signs of regaining his All-Star form. A year ago, he missed four months due to right shoulder inflammation.

"It took a little time, but I want to go out there and get deep into the games for these guys," Johnson said. "This month wasn't the best pitching-wise. Someone had to step up and try to help them out a little bit."

Winning two straight had the team pumping up the music in the clubhouse.

"It's a lot of fun, especially when you get to hear [Toby Keith's] "Red Solo Cup" after the game," Johnson said.

Johnson is now 6-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 16 career outings (14 starts) against the Phillies.

"Johnson was good tonight," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's a good pitcher, and he threw well tonight. He's got good stuff and he was good. But at the same time we scored one run off of him and we didn't play good enough to win."

The Marlins were able to do what they normally couldn't against Lee -- sustain any offense.

Coming into the game, Lee had posted successive complete games against Miami, limiting the club to one run in 18 innings. The lefty entered 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in five career starts against the Marlins.

The Marlins struck quickly off Lee, getting a first-inning run on Jose Reyes' double and Logan Morrison's RBI groundout.

In the third inning, Johnson had a little more breathing room, as Miami tacked on two more runs. Hanley Ramirez's double with one out got the inning going. He scored on Giancarlo Stanton's single to left, and Omar Infante, with the bases loaded, lifted a long fly ball to center. Shane Victorino caught it on the warning track, and it went for a sacrifice fly.

Hunter Pence connected on a home run to open the fourth inning. From there, Johnson retired nine straight before exiting after six innings with a 6-1 lead.

In the fifth inning, the Marlins were able to knock Lee out of the game. Stanton singled and moved to third on Morrison's ground-rule double. Ruggiano crushed a two-run double, and John Buck slapped an RBI single, prompting Lee to be removed for Raul Valdes.

"I've never faced him," Ruggiano said of Lee. "I know he's a bulldog on the mound and he comes right at you. He's proud of his stuff, and he should be, because he has really good stuff.

"I think as a team we had very good approaches tonight. We were aggressive right back at him, and we got a lot of hits. I think we had good approaches, and everyone up and down did a very good job."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.