Josh Johnson Returns, Ends Up As Hard-Luck Loser

Thearon W. Henderson

Johnson allowed just one earned over seven but took the 2-1 loss in his return from the DL.

Josh Johnson returned from the disabled list Tuesday night and looked decent, suffering a hard-luck loss despite pitching well. Johnson gave the Jays seven innings, allowing one Ernie and one Bert (an earned run and an unearned run), scattering six hits without a walk and surrendering one home run.

But the results really aren’t what you care about in a pitcher’s first game back.

Johnson coaxed 12 swinging strikes (per Brooks Baseball), which is encouraging. While that 12.3% swinging strike rate isn’t elite, it’s higher than he normally achieves. Not bad at all. His velocity sat in the 91-93 range for the most part and averaged a shade over 92.5. That’s down from his 93.0 earlier this season and where you’d like it to be, but the temperature had also dropped below 60 degrees by the seventh inning, and temperature correlates fairly well with pitch velocity.

Johnson also kept the heater over the plate. You might remember he was throwing strikes less than 40% of the time when he hit the DL, and tonight he threw more than 60% of his pitches for strikes.

He also avoided "the tough inning," which was important for maintaining his pitch count. He didn’t throw more than 19 pitches in any one inning and he didn’t drop below 50% strikes in any inning.

It’s that consistency – in velocity, location, and efficiency – that encourages me moving forward. Johnson looked comfortable and in a flow, and I’m hopeful he can push the intensity a little further next time out.

Just please stop throwing your foot out at groundballs.

At the plate, Jose Bautista struggled once again, going 0-for-4 to further his slump. He’s now 2-for-his-last-30, a span over which he has just one walk and one extra base hit, a double. It’s a small amount of time but this team can’t afford Bautista slumps. His WPA over that span is -1.02, meaning he’s "lost" a full win for the team given the leverage of the situations he was in during those plate appearances. It’ll pass, though.

Melky Cabrera, however, is not slumping, going 2-for-4 and working a nine-pitch at bat in the ninth against Sergio Romo, though it ended in a fly out. Cabrera didn’t seem phased by the mostly-negative reaction to start the game (he was returning to San Francisco for the first time, and today’s announcement about possible Biogenesis suspensions was probably also a cloud).

Edwin Encarnacion also stayed hot, smashing a homer to centerfield for the Jays’ only run. Yes, AT&T Park had a 10MPH wind blowing out to center, but it’s still an impressive shot. It’s Encarnacion’s third home run in the last four games – it’s that explosive power that makes him playing third base tolerable in the short term, even though his second-inning throwing error put a man on base for Andre Torres’ home run. (For what it’s worth, Encarnacion’s glove looks more than fine at the hot corner, it’s always been the arm that’s the issue.)

That last at bat, though, sucked. Him dropping his bat accidentally down 1-2 was hilarious, but the love-tap out to end the game is a terrible way to end it.

Adam Lind also had an error, upping the difficulty for Neil Wagner in the eighth, but Wagner was just fine, essentially coaxing four outs on his 19 pitches.

Am I missing anything? Oh yeah…the Jays’ bats made Tim Lincecum look like 2009 Tim Lincecum. Lincecum only got eight swinging strikes but avoided the walks that have plagued him a bit, issuing just a single free pass. The Encarnacion homer was the only black spot on his resume. His fastball was especially impressive, getting 19 strikes that were either called or fouled. Guys should be able to do more against a 90-91MPH heater, but perhaps they were fooled sitting on other offerings, not a bad strategy given he threw 41 fastballs to 31 curves and 26 sliders and changes.

Lincecum looked good, and his peripherals have suggested he’s better than his ERA, but he didn’t look quite as good as the Jays made him look.

One managerial note, just because it’s so cool to do: I didn’t understand pinch hitting DeRosa-Davis instead of Davis-DeRosa in the eighth. The moves are fine, I guess, but down just a run I would have pinch hit Davis first so he could have moved on the bases rather than having DeRosa in front of him. Not a huge deal, but a small note I wanted to make.

Hit us up in the comments with what I forgot, what I got wrong, why I’m an idiot, etc.

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