Johnson rising into elite ace status

Johnson rising into elite ace status

ATLANTA -- To be an ace, you've got to be able to beat other team's aces.

In his comparatively young Major League career, Josh Johnson is showing that he is more than capable of matching the elite starters pitch-for-pitch.

The 25-year-old Marlins right-hander has gained a lot of attention since coming out on the winning end against the Mets and Johan Santana on Sunday.

Johnson went the distance in a 2-1 win, striking out seven and allowing one run on five hits with one walk. The victory propelled him to 2-0 on the homestand, and helped earn him National League Player of the Week.

But going back to Johnson's rookie season in 2006, the 6-foot-7 Oklahoma native has shown he can beat other team's aces. That season, he defeated Pedro Martinez of the Mets, John Smoltz of the Braves and Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays.

"It didn't even occur to me that I had beaten those guys in 2006," Johnson said. "Seeing the names, Martinez, Smoltz, Halladay, the list went on and on. It definitely feels good. I did my job that day."

Much is made of Mets left fielder Daniel Murphy dropping Cody Ross' fly ball in the second inning, resulting in two unearned runs being charged to Santana.

What shouldn't be lost is how dominant Johnson was. In the ninth inning he was still throwing 97 mph.

Wes Helms, playing first base for Florida on Sunday, said New York's David Wright gave Johnson a huge compliment when he reached base.

"He said, 'Wes, this is one of those days you close your eyes and swing and hope you hit it,'" Helms said.

Wright added: "The ball was exploding out of his hand."

On Tuesday, two days after his 113-pitch outing, Johnson said he feels strong. He did some long throwing on Monday, and took Tuesday off.

The humbled Johnson noted that Santana had some tough luck.

"He got unlucky," Johnson said. "That's what happened for him. He pitched great. I just kept the pace of the game going. I wasn't sitting in the dugout for 20 minutes, and he wasn't in there for 20 minutes. It was fun.

"Everything was going so quickly. You're not thinking about what's happening. He was keeping the game going. I was keeping the game going. It was good for the defenses. The hitters probably didn't like it as much."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.