Johnson tightens Lugnuts with 10 K's

Righty matches career high in strikeouts, takes over Midwest League in wins

Steve Johnson hasn't allowed a run in six of his 13 starts for the Loons this season. (Great Lakes Loons)

By Alan Friedman / Special to | June 23, 2008 8:00 PM ET

Steve Johnson of Great Lakes is tough to beat even when he doesn't post many strikeouts. When he reaches double digits, watch out.

On Monday, the 20-year-old right-hander fanned 10 to tie a career high, scattering seven hits over 7 1/3 frames as the visiting Loons blanked the Lansing Lugnuts, 2-0.

Johnson (9-2), who now leads the Midwest League in victories, lowered his ERA to 2.34.

"It doesn't happen often, but it's nice when it does," Johnson said of his double-digit strikeout performance. "I was getting opportunities for strikeouts and was able to take advantage of them.

"I was using my fastball to get ahead in the count and then mixed up my offspeed pitches," he added.

The last time Johnson had 10 strikeouts was on July 2, 2006, while pitching for Ogden in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.

Johnson, selected by the Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2005 June First-Year Player Draft, was just 3-6 with a 4.85 ERA for the Loons in 2007. But he spent part of the year on the sidelines with an arm injury.

"I finished strong, and then I played Winter Ball in Hawaii and did well there, so coming into the season, my goal was to keep the momentum going," he said. "I feel like I've got my old self back."

Johnson has won four straight starts and seven of his last eight. He hasn't allowed a run in six of his 13 starts this year.

"I try not to look ahead," he said when asked about his future. "I just look forward to my next start."

Matt Sartor hurled the final 1 2/3 innings for the Loons (2-3), allowing one hit and fanning two in notching his third save.

Erik Kanaby sparked the Loons offense, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

Trey Magnuson (0-7) allowed two runs -- one earned -- on five hits without a strikeout or a walk over five frames to take the loss for the Lugnuts (4-1).

Alan Friedman is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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