"I've been watching him since I was a little bitty boy," said Matt Kemp, who was 3 years old when Johnson made his Major League debut in 1988. Kemp will start in right field against Johnson. "It should be cool."
You can tell Kemp has never before faced Johnson, but neither has Russell Martin, James (Mr. .500) Loney or Tony Abreu. They are all expected to start as manager Grady Little turns things over to the kids.
Loney raised his average to .500 (19-for-38), but despite going 3-for-4 his slugging percentage actually dropped because the hits were singles. Former Diamondback Luis Gonzalez, walked four times the previous night, joined Loney with three singles as the Dodgers outhit Arizona, 9-6.
One notable name on the bench Thursday will be new third baseman Nomar Garciaparra, whose megaslump (1-for-21) continued with an 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, leaving his average at .266.
"We'll give him a little break tomorrow to gather his thoughts and get back out there Friday and see if we can get him going again," said Little. "He's trying too hard."
"It's a good thing, the way I'm going right now," Garciaparra said of the day off. "I'm not helping."
Garciaparra, who missed several games last weekend with the flu, said he wouldn't use that as an excuse, although he sounds as if he's still battling some ailment besides a cold bat.
"It would be nice to use that, but I'm not going to," he said. "I'm not pressing. I stink. It would be one thing if I knew what I was doing wrong. I don't know. The work is great, but it's not carrying over. It's not for a lack of work, that's for sure. It's not like it's the first time I've gone through it, or it would be frustrating. I've just got to ride it out the best I can."
Garciaparra, dropped to seventh in the batting order, had plenty of company in squandering scoring opportunities Wednesday night, when the Dodgers were shut out for the sixth time this year. Martin, although he doubled in the first inning, struck out three times. Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent went hitless in this game and are a combined 3-for-26 in the series, with none of the hits leaving the infield.
"They've had better days," said Little. "How many times do you see Russell Martin strike out three times with people all over the bases? The guy's pretty good, but he's human and sometimes it happens."
Lowe was charged with two runs (one earned) over 6 2/3 innings, so while his loss total went up (8-7), his ERA (3.03) went down. He has been on the losing end of three of those shutouts and in his seven losses, the Dodgers have scored a total of seven runs.
This time they had baserunners in each of the first eight innings, put runners in scoring position in six different innings and couldn't score even in the eighth inning when they had runners on first and second with no outs and bases loaded with one out. They were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. On Saturday night against Tampa Bay, the Dodgers left 15 runners on base.
"We're trying to break a record," Little said sarcastically. "We're working on that in the pregame. We've had a meeting with the hitters about it."
"We definitely had our chances," said Gonzalez. "Everybody came up with runners in scoring position, but Webb made good pitches when he had to. The opportunities we had made our team a little more frustrated."
Lowe was wild (two walks) in a 29-pitch first inning, when a Loney throwing error at first base led to an unearned run, then he settled down until Eric Byrnes' two-out RBI single in the seventh chased him.
"Any time you're facing Brandon Webb, you expect a game like this," said Lowe, 2-5 lifetime against the Diamondbacks, while Webb improved to 7-3 against the Dodgers. "It's frustrating as a team, not as an individual."