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Johnson saves Cubs with another gem

Johnson saves Cubs with another gem

MILWAUKEE -- Reed Johnson was in right field at the right time for Ryan Dempster and the wrong time for Prince Fielder.

Johnson robbed Fielder of a potential grand slam to back Dempster and help the Cubs post an 8-5 win over the Brewers Sunday night. If you missed this one, check out the video.

Johnson had come into the game in the fourth for Milton Bradley, who had to leave because of a strained groin. The Brewers loaded the bases with none out, and Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild went to the mound to talk to Dempster.

The approach was to try and keep the runs to a minimum and get Fielder to hit a sacrifice fly.

"He just happened to hit it in our bullpen and Reed went and caught it," Dempster said. "I've played 15 years in professional baseball, and he's made the two best catches while I've been pitching. I'll have to buy him Culver's on the way home.

"It's such a good job of tracking the ball," Dempster said. "That's a tough ball to time your leap to because it's so high. It's a game-saving catch."

Fielder drove the ball to right and Johnson timed his leap perfectly, reaching over the eight-foot high wall to snare the ball. And Fielder, to his credit, tipped his batting helmet to Johnson as he walked off the field.

"It was a great play," Fielder said. "You can't be mad. I did everything I was supposed to do and he did everything he was supposed to do. I guess he was just a better guy today."

Last April 25 at Washington, Johnson made a highlight-reel catch of a ball off the bat of Washington's Felipe Lopez, slamming head-first into the fence in left-center after the catch. Dempster just happened to be on the mound for that one, too.

"I've never robbed a home run before," Johnson said of Sunday's web gem. "That was my first one. I told Prince that at first [base] the next inning. I said, 'I know, man, you don't want to hear that.'"

Fielder and Johnson did meet at first in the sixth inning after Johnson was hit in the back with a pitch. What did Fielder say?

"I said, 'Great play, jerk,'" Fielder said.

Of all Fielder's homers, he has yet to hit a grand slam. He'll have to wait another day.

"Not too many people can make that play," Fielder said. "I was a little bit [shocked]. I don't have a grand slam yet, so it would be pretty cool."

"I always talk about [robbing someone of a home run] when we're practicing in the outfield, about how I've never got one in the game," Johnson said. "[Tonight] was a tough one because it's just so high and it's coming down right on that spot and you have to time it perfect. It worked out. It worked out good."

Johnson didn't see Fielder tip his cap to him.

"The replay went right up to the moment and showed him looking to see if I was going to catch it," Johnson said. "I didn't see him tip his cap. He has a fun time playing the game and me as well, and I think he would've rather had it go the other way, but he's one of those guys who's going to be successful because he has a good time playing the game and he's trying to win the game at all times."

Bradley will be sidelined indefinitely with a strained groin, and Johnson will most likely be in the outfield on Monday for the Cubs' home opener. Don't expect him to leap that high against the ivy at Wrigley.

"What a great play," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "This kid's a ballplayer. He's an old fashioned, hard-nosed ballplayer."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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