Pierce Johnson had no intention of shaking things up Thursday night. Following the suit of other hurlers in his starting rotation seemed the best course of action.
"I was just trying to piggyback on what C.J. [Edwards] did yesterday with the [near] no-hitter and what Corey [Black] did the day before," Johnson said. "They set the bar high, and I just came out and tried to follow their lead."
The Cubs' No. 7 prospect scattered five hits while fanning six over five innings in Class A Advanced Daytona's 5-0 win over Charlotte in the first game of the best-of-5 Florida State League Championship Series. Johnson had allowed only two runs over his last four starts of the season, a span of 17 2/3 innings.
"It was huge, especially to get the first win for our team, especially when we have to go on the road for three games," the 22-year-old righty said.
Daytona, which swept Dunedin in the Semifinals, hasn't allowed an earned run in three postseason games and has won 14 of 15 going back to the regular season. But the Cubs had gone 0-6-1 against Charlotte in 2013, which Johnson and the rest of the team hadn't forgotten.
"I wasn't there for the first [series], but they still had our number the second time," Johnson said, having joined the team June 24 after 13 starts with Class A Kane County in the Midwest League. "They're a salty team, and I knew I had to bring my 'A' game."
He gave up a one-out single to Jake Hager in the first and a leadoff double to Jeff Malm in the second, but otherwise cruised through the first three frames. He ran into trouble in the fourth. No. 10 Rays prospect Drew Vettleson opened the inning with a single to center. With two out and runners on first and second, Hector Guevera slapped a base hit. Vettleson tried to score on the play, but Anthony Giansanti threw a laser beam from left field to nail him.
"Oh, man. That was unbelievable. Giansanti's throw was right on the money and he was out by steps," Johnson said. "Honestly, that probably saved my outing, because if the run scored it could have turned into a domino effect."
The Missouri State product and 2012 first-rounder worked a 1-2-3 fifth and he was hoping to pitch the sixth.
"But it's not up to me. It's up to the coaches and we leave that in their hands," Johnson said. "If I get the opportunity, I'm always ready to answer the bell."
But Jeffrey Lorick took over for three innings and Zach Cates walked the bases loaded, but danced out of trouble in the ninth.
Zeke DeVoss had a pair of doubles, scored twice and stole a base while Pin-Chieh Chen plated three runs and Dustin Geiger added two for the Cubs.