Explosion for Daytona's Johnson

The late, great Harry Caray used to have a regular expression he would often exclaim over the air following Cub home runs. You may have heard of it: "Holy Cow." Had he been around to see it on Sunday, Harry would have no doubt enjoyed Daytona outfielder J.J. Johnson's performance--and perhaps even perfected his original saying.

Johnson, batting .273 in 100-plus games with the Cubs' Advanced-A affiliate, launched three home runs in Sunday's 13-0 Daytona rout of the St. Lucie Mets at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. He drove in eight runs and tied a season-high with four hits in the contest.

The 23-year-old Johnson was a sixth round choice by the Cubs in the long ago 2000 draft. He is a hitter known not so much for home run pop (never accumulating more than seven in a season prior to Sunday), but rather a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter.

Case in point, Johnson leads the team with 28 doubles. He had never recorded a two-homer game in his career prior to Sunday, let alone three.

"Man, I don't know what was going on out there," said a jubilant Johnson afterward. "I'd been struggling lately and Richie (Zisk) gave me two days off to refresh me. I went out today with a clear head and fortunately hit three home runs."

Johnson entered the day batting .216 for the month of August. He was 2 for his last 17 overall before taking a first-ball fastball from Mets starter Ivan Oquendo Maldonado out to center field in a blistering 93-degree heat during the second inning. Johnson followed that up by going deep against right-handers Greg Ramirez in the seventh, and Henry Owens in the eighth.

"I'd never done that in my entire life, not even in high school," Johnson later said. "This is the best night of my life. I just love this night and I don't even want to go to sleep tonight, I'm so excited. The fans were great out there. I loved being out there tonight."

A total of 1,186 were on hand at "The Jack" to witness Johnson's spectacle. Last week, the club set a new attendance record for most fans in one season with 110,869.

Right-hander Juan Mateo started and tied left-hander J.R. Mathes for the team lead in wins with nine this season. Mateo (9-5) allowed only two hits in five innings, striking out six and walking two. He is 2-0 over his last four starts with a 1.82 ERA and 18 strikeouts.

Struggling DH/C Paul O'Toole also had his best showing of the year, going 4-for-5 and hitting his third home run of the season. His batting average rose almost 20 points from .229 heading in to .248 after the night.

Johnson's first homer, a two-run shot, broke a scoreless tie and gave the Cubs their first lead of the evening. Prior to Johnson's feat, the last Daytona player to hit three homers in one game was the once promising top catching prospect, Jeff Goldbach (April 8, 2002 vs. Jupiter).

"The two days off really helped, and I thank Richie for that," Johnson added. "It really gave me a chance to clear my mind."


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