He should only be nearly as effective as Lilly was against the Rockies. This was only his third career shutout (first since 2004) and fifth complete game. At one point he retired 19 consecutive batters. His ERA with the Dodgers is 1.29.
He struck out a season-high 11, including Miguel Olivo three times, the final time Olivo taking a high curve for a called third strike and slamming his bat on home plate. Plate umpire Laz Diaz, who stayed in the game after suffering a bruised right shoulder when hit by a pitch in the third inning, ejected Olivo.
"That was probably the easiest nine innings I've ever caught at the Major League level, or any level," said 41-year-old Brad Ausmus, who is eighth on the all-time games-caught list. "There wasn't much involved for me. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. It was all Ted Lilly. It was more draining going over the hitters before the game. It was almost like a day off."
Lilly, originally a Dodgers draft pick, will be a free agent after this season and with a little prodding from the media said he'd like to stick around.
"Yeah, it's a great place to play," he said. "It would be fun to come back here to win."
There is that.
"I've really enjoyed the guys on the team. Unfortunately, we're more games out today than when I got here," he said. "The ultimate goal is to catch San Diego. It doesn't make any sense to focus on individual performances when we've got 10 games to catch the leaders with a month and a half left. That's what my motivation is. I'd love the opportunity to pitch in the postseason."
And that's why the Dodgers acquired him from the Cubs with Ryan Theriot for Blake DeWitt and two Minor League pitchers. But the Dodgers have encountered more problems than Lilly can overcome pitching once every five days. There's the shaky bullpen and an offense that has lost Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin.
The Dodgers scored quickly on Jorge De La Rosa, a one-out walk to Casey Blake in the second inning followed by Johnson's first homer as a Dodger. Johnson was playing in place of Andre Ethier, who is 1-for-11 with five strikeouts lifetime against De La Rosa.
"After they walked Blake to get to me, I wanted to come through in that situation," said Johnson, who wasn't sure if he hit a hanging changeup or a splitter that stayed up.
That was it for the Dodgers' offense, which wasted three opportunities with runners in scoring position. Matt Kemp lined into a double play to end a third-inning threat, the Dodgers had runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth and failed to score, then had runners on first and second with no outs in the seventh and failed to score. The Dodgers were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"We're still lacking offensively," said manager Joe Torre. "Kemp hit the ball better and we got a home run from an unexpected source."
With the Dodgers' bullpen in a state of disarray and Hong-Chih Kuo having pitched the night before, Torre said he never considered not letting Lilly go out for the ninth inning.
"I had Teddy in New York and he was a five-, six-inning guy with a high pitch count," said Torre. "I've seen him mature in a different uniform. Tonight his strike-ball ratio [110 pitches, 79 strikes, 31 balls] was pretty darn impressive. He's come a long way."
Lilly said he wanted the shutout because those opportunities don't come along very often for him.
"Then I walked the leadoff guy," he said, referring to Eric Young Jr. leading off the ninth, but he got Dexter Fowler on a double-play grounder and caught Ryan Spilborghs looking for the final out.
"He was doing a good job of hitting the corners on both sides of the plate and he got good defense and his guys behind him made diving plays," said Spilborghs. "We hit some balls hard tonight off of him that very easy could've turned our innings around. We're hitting them right at their guys, and Lilly was doing a very good job using his offspeed. Like I said, he wasn't missing a corner."