Micah Johnson knows his game is clicking when he's stuffing the box score and doing a little bit of everything. The fact that he also cleared the right-field fence was just an added bonus.
Johnson went 4-for-4 with his first Triple-A homer in Charlotte's 8-6 loss to Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night at Coca-Cola Park.
The speedy leadoff hitter also walked, notched his third International League stolen base and scored two runs, lifting his average to .247 and giving him plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the rest of the season.
"I got on with a bunt hit, went first-to-third on a hit-and-run, stole a base and drove in a run with two outs," said Johnson, a 2012 ninth-round Draft pick out of Indiana University. "That is probably what I really want to focus on, getting on base any way I can. Tonight I had a bunt single and home run, two different ends of the spectrum.
"The best thing tonight was when I had the bunt hit. I knew Carlos Sanchez could handle the bat. I went to steal and he got a fastball away and he went the other way with it. It was beautiful. I went first-to-third and ended up scoring the tying run. If he did that every time I went to steal and I ended up with no steals, I would be happy with that."
It was the fifth career four-hit game for the 23-year-old second baseman. He had three for Class A Kannapolis and another for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem last season. The most recent was a 4-for-6 performance against Frederick on July 23. Wednesday also marked the fourth time Johnson reached base five times a game and the first since April 19, when he had two singles and three walks for Double-A Birmingham.
The third-ranked White Sox prospect walked and stole second in the first inning, laced an RBI single to center field in the second and homered with two outs in the fourth. In the seventh, he dropped a bunt down the third-base line, then capped his perfect night with a one-out single to left field in the ninth.
"The at-bat was pretty short; it was a first-pitch fastball," Johnson said of his homer. "I don't guess on pitches, I just react. It was good for me because I pulled the ball in the air which, when I'm not going that well, I tend to get jammed on. The wind was blowing out; I get all my home runs when the wind's blowing out."
Johnson batted .329 with three homers, 16 RBIs and 10 steals in 17 tries over 37 games with Birmingham prior to his promotion. But the MVP of last year's Southern League Championship Series, had been struggling in his first five weeks at the Minors' highest level.
Batting .218 with 17 hits in his first 18 contests, he had a 2-to-13 walk-to-strikeout ratio and his .542 OPS was more than 200 points below his .796 career average.
"Better. That's all I can say about it," said Johnson, who missed more than two weeks with a hamstring injury in late May and early June. "It's been a rough stretch the last few weeks. You know how hamstrings are when you run as much as I do. It just got worse and worse, but it was hard for me to say that it hurts so much that I don't want to play through it. But it feels good now.
"I've only had about 80 [Triple-A] at-bats, so your average can go down pretty drastically if you don't perform. Guys don't want to walk me because they know I want to steal. But you can't force a walk. If they throw you a first-pitch strike and a second-pitch strike, you have to battle."
Charlotte starter Dylan Axelrod allowed four runs -- three earned -- on four hits and four walks over 3 2/3 innings but did not factor in the decision.
Tyler Knigge (1-0) notched his first win of the season after yielding a run on two hits over three innings. Rehabbing Phillies third baseman Cody Asche homered, while designated hitter Steve Susdorf and catcher Cameron Rupp each collected a pair of hits.