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FLA@ATL: Johnson's no-hit bid lasts 7 1/3 innings

It's the choice a pitching coach never wants to make, but also the one that can save a pitcher's season. Josh Johnson was working a no-hitter in the eighth inning of his last start while mounting a dangerously high pitch count, and the Marlins had to debate whether it was safe enough to let him pursue history without endangering his arm.

Fate intervened in the form of a one-out hit, and Johnson could come out with the knowledge of a job well done. Fast forward one start, and he'll be facing Pittsburgh on Tuesday with confidence and the extra strength of working deep in the game. It's one less worry for pitching coach Randy St. Clair, who shared a sarcastic message with Johnson.

"He said, 'Never was he so happy to see a pitcher give up a hit,'" said Johnson.

Johnson wound up throwing 109 pitches in the gem, and the Marlins think he's probably safe to throw between 110 and 120 pitches on Tuesday. The Pirates may not want to hear it, but Johnson felt strong late in the game. Florida got a day off on Monday, and after Johnson, the Marlins will go with Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad in the series with the Bucs.

"I felt good in my last two innings," Johnson said. "I felt better than I did earlier in the game. What they try to do early on, they try to ramp you up [in pitches]. But certain situations, they sometimes dictate things."

The Pirates, meanwhile, will counter with lefty Paul Maholm in the opener, and young right-handers Charlie Morton and James McDonald in the final two games of the series. Maholm has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start, and he's completed five innings in all three of his starts. The southpaw is 3-4 with a 4.89 ERA in seven career starts against the Marlins, and he went 0-1 with a 6.35 mark last year.

Florida won one and lost one in Philadelphia over the weekend, with one game postponed due to rain. Both games were decided by one run, and the Marlins are 4-1 in those circumstances this season. Florida went 23-28 in one-run games last season, and went 6-2 against Pittsburgh despite only outscoring the Pirates, 33-27.

The Bucs, coming off a 9-3 win over the National League Central first-place Reds on Monday night, have now won three road series to start the season and are now 7-3 away from PNC Park and now back at .500 for the first time since April 10.

The Pirates came into Monday with the third-best road batting average in the NL at .275 and improved that with their nine-run, 15-hit performance against Travis Wood and the Reds.

Pirates: Tabata continues to roll
Pirates left fielder Jose Tabata went 2-for-5 on Monday to increase his batting average to .317 on the season. The 22-year-old, who leads the team in hits with 20, sports a .321 batting average since last year's All-Star break (113-for-352).

Marlins: Stanton slumping
Right fielder Mike Stanton went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts Sunday and is mired below the Mendoza Line, batting .194 with 11 strikeouts in his first 31 at-bats. Stanton, who had 22 homers as a rookie, has yet to go deep this season. The 21-year-old has nine hits this season, but five of them have been singles and just four have gone for extra bases.

Worth noting
Wes Helms or Emilio Bonifacio is expected to start at third base for the Marlins on Tuesday. Donnie Murphy has missed two games since fouling a pitch off his knee and suffering a bone bruise in Friday's game. ... The Marlins lead the Majors with 38 doubles this season. ... Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf (right shoulder) said Monday that it could be another month before he's back. ... Pedro Alvarez was given the night off Monday to clear his head. The Bucs' third baseman sports a .193 batting average with 20 strikeouts and has gone 12 games without driving in a run. Comments