When Josh Johnson arrived at the All-Star Game last year, he
immediately encountered the ace for the Philadelphia Phillies.
”As soon as I walked in, he said hi. And I was like, `Whoa, THE
Roy Halladay,”’ Johnson said Monday, the eve of their latest
Johnson’s a big fan of the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner,
despite being on the losing end when Halladay pitched his perfect
game against the Florida Marlins last May 29. Tuesday’s game will
be Halladay’s first in Miami since that night, and again Johnson
will the opposing pitcher.
The latest duel between two of baseball’s best pitchers ensures
extra adrenaline in both dugouts, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel
”It’s just natural,” he said. ”Everybody knows how good
Johnson is. He’s got a lot of respect around the league.”
Johnson (3-1) led the NL in ERA last year and ranks second this
season at 1.68 despite coming off his worst start of the season
Thursday, when he lost at St. Louis. Opponents are hitting .160
against him, lowest in the majors.
Halladay (5-1) has a 2.19 ERA in seven starts and ranks among
the major league leaders in strikeouts (57) and complete games
While Johnson is 36-13 since returning from elbow surgery in
July 2008, he figures he can learn a lot from his Phillies
counterpart. When Halladay threw a bullpen session during a series
against the Marlins early last season, Johnson received permission
from the Phils to watch.
”Really, really impressive,” Johnson, who at 27 is six years
younger than Halladay. ”He’s one of those guys you want to model
The two aces got to know each other better at last year’s
”I was like a little brother to him,” Johnson said. ”I was
following him around and trying to pick his brain about what he
does between starts – little things I added into my routine.”
Developing such a relationship should help both pitchers, Manuel
”They can not only learn – it builds confidence,” he said.
”And they also get more competitive.”
Because of competitiveness, there are limits to Johnson’s
admiration for Halladay. The Marlins right-hander was in the
clubhouse and not exactly cheering when Halladay completed his
”It never really sunk in,” Johnson said. ”I watched the end
of it, and as soon as the game was over turned the TV off.”
Johnson went seven innings, and Florida lost 1-0 on an unearned
run. He and Halladay combined that night for 17 strikeouts with
only one walk.
The two other times they met, Johnson beat Halladay. The first
matchup came in Johnson’s rookie season in 2006, when the Marlins
defeated Halladay’s Toronto Blue Jays 4-1. The most recent meeting
came in Philadelphia two weeks after the perfect game, when the
Marlins edged the Phils 2-0.
In their three encounters, Johnson has allowed one earned run in
20 2-3 innings for an ERA of 0.43. Halladay’s ERA is 1.96.
On Tuesday, Johnson said he’ll be focused on what he’s doing and
won’t pay much attention to Halladay. But he’s looking forward to
facing the first-place Phillies, who began the week with a two-game
lead over Florida in the NL East.
”That’s why you play – for the competition, to play against the
best,” Johnson said. ”Although if you were to do it every time
out, that might not be as fun.”
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