"Sometimes that under-the-radar stuff really works out," outfielder Jason Kubel said. "He's been great. We knew we were getting a good player when he came here, and he's just done a great job. He's a big, strong guy. I didn't realize that until now."
The Pirates certainly knew. In the first three games of a four-game series against the Astros, the Pirates saw Johnson go 5-for-11 with a pair of homers. They were no doubt relieved when he was traded to the D-backs prior to the fourth game of that series, but he was back to haunt them -- this time in an Arizona uniform.
Johnson helped turn what would have been a devastating loss into a win.
After watching the bullpen turn a one-run lead into a one-run deficit thanks to a two-run Pittsburgh rally in the seventh, the D-backs' offense came alive in the eighth against Jason Grilli.
The right-hander, who has been one of the Pirates' most reliable relievers, allowed a double to Paul Goldschmidt and a single to Justin Upton to start the inning.
Miguel Montero then grounded an RBI single to right to tie the score at 4.
Johnson followed with a blast that landed in the grass beyond the center-field wall to give Arizona a three-run advantage.
"Just one of those nights you like to forget about," Grilli said.
It was the first time this year that the Pirates lost when leading after seven innings, dropping their record to 53-1 in those situations.
"It was great win, it was one of our best wins of the year," manager Kirk Gibson said. "That was exceptional."
This is Johnson's first taste of a playoff chase, and he is taking it all in.
"It's pretty intense," Johnson said. "Coming to the ballpark every day, looking at the scores and what different teams are doing. It's a lot of fun."
Though Johnson has hit well with the D-backs, he was also swinging the bat well with the Astros prior to the trade -- as the Pirates can attest.
"I was feeling good with myself, seeing the ball pretty well before that, too," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to keep it simple, really, trying to see a good pitch to hit and hit it hard. Some of them are going over the fence right now. I'm pretty confident in my ability. I've got to keep working and hopefully keep getting better. Hopefully this continues. I know it's probably not going to continue like it's been going, but I'll keep grinding and every day try to get better."
Gibson was thinking about giving Johnson a day off on Wednesday but added that taking that bat out of the lineup right now is not an appealing prospect.
"I think he's comfortable in Arizona," Gibson said. "He's just had a great start for us. He's shown he's very strong. He's played great for us."
Though he did not get a win, rookie left-hander Patrick Corbin once again pitched well. Corbin allowed two runs on six hits before leaving after six innings with a one-run lead.
Instead the win went to reliever Brad Ziegler (5-1). The sidearming right-hander doused water on the flames in the seventh, getting Michael McKenry to ground into an inning-ending double play to end Pittsburgh's rally.
It was the 13th ground-ball double play that Ziegler had induced this year, tops in the Majors.
"He's been doing it a ton," Gibson said of Ziegler getting key double plays. "We kind of save him down there for when we get in trouble. He's done a great job for us all year."