NEW YORK (AP) -- At 6-foot-7, Josh Johnson glares down at home plate, an imposing figure with an intimidating repertoire of pitches.
"You barely know he's in the clubhouse," teammate Luis Gonzalez said, "but when he takes the mound he has presence."And how.The big right-hander stifled the New York Mets for a season-high seven innings Sunday, leading the Florida Marlins to an 8-2 win and helping them avoid a three-game sweep by their NL East rivals.A month into his return from reconstructive elbow surgery, 30 pounds lighter and with a refined changeup to complement a dastardly slider and zipppy fastball, Johnson has given Florida the kind of pitcher other teams paid dearly for in midseason trades."It's like almost getting a big trade," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "To get him, for me, was like Milwaukee getting [CC] Sabathia."The stats back Fredi Gonzalez up. The Marlins improved to 6-0 in Johnson's starts this season, including three wins against the rival Phillies and Mets. Sabathia is 6-0 for the Brewers.Dan Uggla had two doubles and three RBIs, Luis Gonzalez and Mike Jacobs each homered and Florida finished a 3-3 road trip with a breakout offensive effort that quashed the Mets' hope of making a statement in the division.Still, the Mets returned to Shea Stadium after a 1-5 trip and began a stretch where they will play 23 straight days by taking two of three from Florida and jumping into second place in the East, a half-game ahead of the Marlins. They entered Sunday one back of the Phillies.Johnson (3-0), who had Tommy John surgery in August 2007 after going 12-7 in his rookie campaign of '06, gave up two runs and five hits to follow up six shutout innings in Philadelphia on Tuesday. He lowered his ERA from 4.18 to 3.19 with his last two starts."I felt real good today," Johnson said. "I absolutely attacked the zone."Endy Chavez's leadoff triple in the third was the one hard-hit ball off Johnson. Chavez scored on Jose Reyes' groundout.Johnson struck out five in beating the Mets and Pelfrey for the second time -- July 30 was the first."Tremendous pitcher," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He's one of those guys you don't want to see because he's got a tremendous angle on his fastball and a good assortment of pitches. I was kind of hoping we'd get a little rain, take him out, play big, but it didn't work out that way."The Mets had won nine of Pelfrey's last 10 starts coming in, but he gave up six runs in 4 2/3 innings in this one. The Marlins have scored at least five runs in each of his three starts against them this season.After a swift first, Jacobs and Uggla hit consecutive doubles leading off the second inning. Jeremy Hermida added a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.The Marlins added a run in the fourth on three straight two-out singles by Cody Ross, Hermida and Matt Treanor, who had the run-scoring hit.Pelfrey (10-8) lost control in the fifth, walking two ahead of Uggla's two-run double and then hitting Ross in the back with a pitch. He walked Hermida, then kept his back turned to his manager and stared out to center field the entire wait for Eddie Kunz to arrive from the bullpen."I think I made some bad pitches," Pelfrey said. "I made some stupid pitches, and when I did they made me pay for them. Uggla came up and swung at the first pitch. It was supposed to be down and away and it was up."Kunz, making his third big league appearance, threw a wild pitch to score a run and make it 6-1.Gonzalez hit his sixth home run and Jacobs added his 25th off Carlos Muniz in the sixth, and David Wright hit an RBI single in the bottom half for New York. Johnson eliminated any chance for a Mets rally by getting Carlos Delgado to ground into a double play."He's been the stopper for us ever since he's been back," Luis Gonzalez said of Johnson. "He hasn't disappointed us."
New York will play Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon, a makeup of a game that was rained out on April 28. ... Mets closer Billy Wagner is on track throw a couple of innings at Class A Brooklyn next weekend as he rehabs from a strained left forearm. He's scheduled to return from the DL on Aug. 18. ... Marlins LHP Andrew Miller (patella tendinitis in right knee) pitched 3 2-3 innings in a rehab start for Class-A Jupiter on Saturday. He gave up five hits and a run. He is scheduled to throw 75-80 pitches for Jupiter on Thursday. ... Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez is confident that LHP Scott Olsen will make his next start. Olsen rolled his ankle covering first in the fifth inning Saturday night.