Chicago White Sox starter Erik Johnson pitched up to his potential for the first time this season, earning a no-decision against the Boston Red Sox, Tuesday at US Cellular Field.
Johnson, who hadn’t pitched that great his first two starts of the season, showed his potential in start three with 6.2 innings pitched, allowing just one earned run on two walks and three hits.
The White Sox won by a 2-1 score, with Alexei Ramirez scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the 9th with two outs off an errant throw to first base.
The right-handed pitcher struck out nine Red Sox batters, lowering his season ERA to 6.35, before walking off to a standing ovation from the White Sox faithful.
Before the game, Johnson’s ERA was 9.58.
His first two starts of the 2014 season, Johnson went just 4.2 innings against the Kansas City Royals, where he gave up seven earned runs on 10 hits and three walks, suffering the loss.
Start two saw him get a no-decision against the Colorado Rockies, where he went 5.2 innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits and one walk.
Not Tuesday night against Boston.
Johnson threw 107 pitches (63 strikes, 44 balls), and his season-best performance began by retiring the first six batters he faced through the first two innings.
This was the absolute type of game the White Sox needed from their right-handed starter. I was a bit tough on him following his first two starts, but I’m also not the most patient person in the world, either.
On the White Sox Top Prospect list, he’s ranked No. 1, as he was a second-round draft selection in 2011.
In his scouting report on whitesox.com, it says of Johnson:
“The former Cal ace throws his low-90s fastball from a good downhill angle. Johnson gets good bite on his slider, making it his best offspeed pitch. He also throws an average changeup and occasionally uses a show-me curveball early in the count to left-handed batters.”
Those pitches must have been really working well against the Red Sox, as it took until the ninth batter of the game, in the third inning, for the Red Sox to gain a hit … a single by Jonathan Herrera to centerfield.
Johnson kept the Red Sox scoreless for the first three innings, and the one run he allowed came off a home run to right field by Daniel Nava. In the fourth, he struck out both David Ortiz and Mike Napoli to start the inning, gave up the solo home run, then bounced back with a strikeout of A.J. Pierzynski.
He came back in the fifth to retire batters, 1-2-3, and did the same thing in the sixth. By the time the seventh inning rolled around, he faced four batters in the inning, retiring two of them but also giving up a hit and walk.
The final batter he faced in the inning, Ryan Roberts, he struck out swinging.
If he can keep close to those type of performances, Johnson could really bolster the starting lineup of the White Sox into something special, but it will take some time. Hopefully we’ll see more of those type of days, rather than what we saw the first two games of the season.
For Tuesday, though, give Johnson his due credit … he earned it.
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