Jason Johnson Returns With a Bang

Jason Johnson said thanks, but no thanks when he was selected to the Pacific Coast-International League All-Star team as the starting pitcher. He said he would rather take his regular turn for the 51s because he was determined to return to the Major Leagues. That he did, and in a big way, holding the Giants to only five hits over six shutout innings and winning 2-0 in his first start since 2006.

"It's nice to be back up here," Johnson said in a masterful bit of understatement. "It's something special to me."

Jason Johnson (1-0), who spent most of the season at Las Vegas crafting an 11-6, 3.82 record for the 51s, scattered five hits while walking none and striking out three while lowering his three-game ERA to 1.38

Chan Ho Park took over to start the seventh and again worked his magic, allowing no hits in 1.2 innings and striking out two; then Jonathan Broxton buttoned up the win, fanning three over the final 1.1 to record his fifth save.

It was Johnson's first start since Aug. 18, 2006, when he pitched for Boston against Yankees managed at the time by Joe Torre. He went a combined 3-12 that season for the Indians, Red Sox and Reds before spending last season with the Seibu Lions in Japan.

Johnson, who has pitched for eight major league teams since making his debut with Pittsburgh in 1997, had a remarkable spring training, but the Dodgers didn't have room for him on their roster. He was recalled earlier this month and made two relief appearances before getting an opportunity to start.

The Dodgers posted their third shutout in four games. The first two were against Washington and they remained one game behind Arizona. It evened the Los Angeles record at 53-53 and a win tonight would move them over .500 for the first time since May 27.

Los Angeles won with starter Johnson and catcher Danny Ardoin who opened the season at Las Vegas and shortstop Angel Berroa who was with the White Sox.

The Dodgers scored both runs in the sixth against loser Matt Cain (6-9) on a two-out, RBI single by James Loney and an unusual error by San Francisco left fielder Fred Lewis.

Matt Kemp opened the inning with a single, stole second and went to third on Andre Ethier's ground ball. Jeff Kent lined out before Loney hit an outside pitch over shortstop Omar Vizquel's head to drive in Kemp.

Then came the bizarre error.

Casey Blake doubled into the left-field corner and Lewis scrambled over into foul territory to get the ball, picked it up and fumbled it into the first row of seats.

He grabbed the ball quickly before a fan could get to it and and threw it to Vizquel, whose relay to the plate was in plenty of time to nail Loney.

But the third-base umpire convened a meeting that resulted in crew chief Greg Gibson (who booted both Blake and Torre the night before) ruling Loney safe at home and awarding Blake third base.

Vizquel, who has played more big league games at shortstop than anyone in history, said he had never seen a play like that. "That was weird," he said. "When the ball jumped into the stands, I thought the ball was going to be dead."

Cain dropped to 0-5 in his career against the Dodgers, allowing eight hits and two runs. He has allowed only four earned runs in 29 innings in his last four starts but the Giants have scored a total of eight runs in his last seven outings.

Johnson's contract allowed him to leave the Dodgers organization if he wasn't in by June 1, and July 23.

On June 1 he was overwhelming Pacific Coast League hitters and 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw got the call, not Johnson, and that nearly made him invoke the option.

"It was close, really close," he told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "But I always wanted to pitch in L.A. I was just hoping to get the chance. I knew I had an out and other guys were getting called up but none of that bothered me. I decided to stay because I thought I'd be in L.A. sometime this year."

It was Johnson's 56th Major League victory but he'll likely get only one more start (Sunday) against the Diamondbacks before Penny returns from the disabled list.

The diabetic Johnson, who pitches with an insulin pump, gave credit to his defense, which turned a pair of double plays and included a heady backup by Berroa, who saved a wild throw from Ardoin and nailed Randy Winn as he was trying to go from first to third on a wild pitch and wild throw.

Kemp extended his hitting streak to 16 games and stole his 24th base, the longest by a Dodgers player since Andre Ethier nabbed in 16 in a row back in 2006. Juan Pierre stole his 100th base for the Dodgers and has now stolen at least 100 for three different clubs, something only four players in big-league history have done. Jeff Kent and Loney each had a pair of hits and Blake added a double.

The Dodgers continue to trail the Diamondbacks by a single game and will send Chad Billingsley to the mound tonight in hopes of nailing down the series.

Billingsley (10-9, 3.26 ERA) leads the staff with 10 wins and he will face LHP Jonathan Sanchez (8-6, 4.46 ERA).?
 Score by innings
San Francisco	000 000 000-0
Los Angeles	000 002 00x-2

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	4  0  1  0  .279
Kemp cf-lf	4  1  2  0  .294
Ethier rf	4  0  1  0  .275
 Jones cf 	0  0  0  0  .169
Kent 2b	        4  0  2  0  .252
 Ozuna pr-2b	0  0  0  0  .279
Loney 1b	4  1  2  1  .301
Blake 3b	4  0  1  0  .292
Berroa ss	3  0  0  0  .200
Ardoin c	3  0  0  0  .208
Johnson  p	2  0  0  0  .000
 Park p	        1  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	33 2 9 2
  San Francisco 30 0 5 0

 Error- Berroa (5), 2b hits- Blake (27). 
RBI- Loney (57). SB- Loney (4), Kemp (24),
Pierre (36). CS- Kemp- (7). DP- Loney, 
Berroa and Loney; Berroa, Kent and Loney.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Johnson (1-0)	6.0  5  0-0  0  3  1.38
Park        	1.2  0  0-0  0  2  2.42
Broxton        	1.1  0  0-0  0  3  3.18
 WP- Johnson. T- 2:46. Att- 40,110.
Garciaparra Not Alarmed
Nomar Garciaparra, out indefinitely with a mild sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, will resume activities when he can tolerate the pain. "It's good to know nothing is structurally wrong," Garciaparra said. "It's a matter of getting the swelling out and getting back out there without aggravating it. I feel optimistic. How long? Hopefully, it will be pretty quick. I'm not overly concerned."

"I won't go on the disabled list," he said. "I'll let it calm down, and once it calms down, I'll be out there."

Garciaparra, who missed 76 games with a broken hand and a torn calf muscle, has been playing shortstop in place of the injured Rafael Furcal. Furcal had back surgery and is out at least another month. Garciaparra is hitting .279 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 27 games.

Penny Returning
If all the proper stars align, Brad Penny will throw a bullpen session today and then pitch in a Minor League assignment Saturday for Las Vegas in Oklahoma City, not far from Penny's home outside Tulsa.

Penny, disabled since June 15, is scheduled to be added to the Dodgers rotation next Friday night in San Francisco against the Giants, with Hiroki Kuroda being pushed back to Saturday night.

Kuroda's three-game slump has prompted the Dodgers to work in an extra day of rest for him next week.

Kuroda was so shaken by his misplay in the first game of the series, when he threw late to second base on a comebacker, and by his inability to do what he wants with his pitches, he spent 20 minutes running wind sprints in the outfield long after all of his teammates had gone home after his start.

"I had to do something before I went home to relieve the stress," said Kuroda. "I was really frustrated and had to let it out. It's something I've done before in Japan. One time, I walked home from the stadium. It's not easy to relieve the stress after a game like that."

In other pitching news in the Japanese department, closer Takashi Saito returned after a trip home to Japan. He's been disabled since July 13 with a sprained elbow ligament that usually requires Tommy John reconstruction, but Saito continues to try to rehabilitate the injury without surgery. He said he is now pain-free but will not try to throw for another week or so.

Saito also said his rehab could take longer than the targeted Sept. 1 return date.

Dodger Blue Notes-- The Dodgers are 15-9 in July and have not won that many games in a calendar month since May 2007. ...Los Angeles has gone a season-high six straight games without allowing a home run, the club's longest streak since April 16-21, 2007. ...Former Dodgers pitcher Ralph Mauriello, who pitched in 1958, sang the national anthem before the game. ...Catcher Russell Martin will return to the lineup tonight after getting a day off. Torre wanted Martin to take a day off to be fresh for this weekend's four-game series against Arizona. ...Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda retired 12 years ago yesterday. ...FOX Sports reports: "Add the Dodgers' Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Braves' Brett Lillibridge to the list of young shortstops that the Orioles have been scouting. The Orioles still seem more likely to move their big pieces -— second baseman Brian Roberts, even closer George Sherrill -— in the offseason. The Dodgers could view Roberts as a potential replacement for Jeff Kent."

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