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MacArthur: Despite strong outing, Johnson stuck on one win

Scott MacArthur
7/10/2013 2:05:58 AM
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CLEVELAND, Ohio - In this day and age, a manager will gladly take the pitching line Josh Johnson served up.

Seven innings, two earned runs on three hits, two walks and six strikeouts. Only five base runners against and five three-up, three-down frames.

"That's what we look for out of him," said manager John Gibbons. "If he can do that every time he goes out there, we've got a shot. It was a lot like that game in San Francisco when he came back from his arm injury. He pitched a heck of a ballgame."

Just one problem: the Blue Jays didn't score and in the process, wasted one of the best efforts Johnson has given the club in his injury-interrupted, disappointing first season in Toronto.

In a 3-0 loss, it was the fourth inning which proved to be the difference.

The game was scoreless. The Jays already had stranded four runners, two of them in scoring position, over the first three innings.

Colby Rasmus led off with an opposite field double. Maicer Izturis followed with a first pitch single through the right side and suddenly Toronto had runners at the corners with nobody out.

But, like with prior opportunities and similar to those that would come, the Jays' offence couldn't produce.

Rajai Davis hit a comebacker to Indians' starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who froze Rasmus at third and took the force out of Izturis at second. Davis promptly stole second base with J.P. Arencibia at the plate. Arencibia, however, struck out looking and Emilio Bonifacio flied out.

Inning over, more runners stranded, another chance squandered.

With one out in their half of the fourth, the Indians' drew their first base runner when Johnson walked Asdrubal Cabrera. Jason Kipnis followed with Cleveland's first hit of the night, a single up the middle. Two hits later, RBI singles by Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley, the Indians had a 2-0 lead and the momentum in the game.

Cleveland's only other chance to score came in the eighth when Drew Stubbs doubled off Steve Delabar. A sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly later, it was 3-0 Indians.

It was a case of Cleveland doing a lot with a little and the Blue Jays doing nothing with more than enough.

"We just couldn't get anything going tonight," said Gibbons. "Even in that last inning we had a couple of guys on but we couldn't string any or hit a ball in a gap or anything like that."

There is Johnson, stuck on one win, called upon to pitch inside and to be more aggressive and to trust his stuff, admitting the lack of success is mentally taxing. It must be, considering he was a key piece of one of general manager Alex Anthopoulos' offseason blockbusters and he's an impending free agent whose value is slipping.

"You've always got to stay positive," said Johnson. "You've got to find a way to stay positive. It's tough at times but you've got to find a way. You've got some good teammates here who definitely help you through it and always be positive and there for you to help you get through it."

Johnson also has his manager, Gibbons, who rarely makes mound visits when he's not going to change the pitcher.

Gibbons made an exception in that fourth inning, as Johnson was struggling.

"That's between us," said Gibbons, when asked his message for Johnson.

"He said 'you've got this' and that's pretty much it," said Johnson. "Maybe a little bit more than that but just believe in yourself, don't worry about it and go get 'em."

It's easier said than done, as Johnson is finding out this season.

He'll take his fourth attempt at a second victory in the Blue Jays' final game before the All-Star break, on Sunday in Baltimore.

The Orioles are the only team Johnson's beaten this season.


ROTATING THE ROTATION

Thanks to the off day Monday, manager John Gibbons is afforded the opportunity to juggle his starting rotation.

R.A. Dickey will now pitch on Thursday afternoon against the Indians. He'll be on regular four days of rest.

Mark Buehrle will be pushed back to Friday, the opener of a three-game series in Baltimore.

Based on numbers, the move makes sense.

In three starts against the Orioles this season, Dickey is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA.

Buehrle, strangely, has yet to pitch against Baltimore this season despite the Jays and Orioles having hooked up for 10 games over three series.


LAWRIE AT SECOND BASE

Brett Lawrie, on the disabled list since May 29th with a left ankle sprain, arrived in Syracuse in time to be in the starting lineup for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons on Tuesday night.

That Lawrie was promoted as a continuation of his rehab assignment is hardly surprising.

That he started at second base caught observers' attention and renewed speculation the club may be considering a move.

Remember Lawrie, 23, played two rehab games at second base for Single-A Dunedin in April. At the time, Lawrie was recovering from a strained oblique suffered before the World Baseball Classic.

The plug quickly was pulled on the experiment, and Lawrie was brought back to the big leagues, when Jose Reyes went down with an ankle injury on April 12.

In 37 games this season, Lawrie is hitting .209/.268/.374 with five home runs and 14 RBI.

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