MIAMI -- The Pirates had a plan for facing Josh Johnson on Tuesday, but the Marlins' ace thwarted it with another strong outing against the Bucs.
Johnson's seven shutout innings helped the Marlins beat the Pirates, 6-0, before 11,118 at Sun Life Stadium.
"He's shut down four teams to start with, and unfortunately we were one of them," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's good. He's a legit ace."
The 27-year-old right-hander, who entered the contest 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh, threw four no-hit innings before Garrett Jones smacked a fastball off the right-field wall for a single to open the fifth. Jones was also the first Pirate to reach base against Johnson with a one-out walk in the second.
"His fastball is definitely his pitch," Jones said. "Sometimes it cuts when it comes in on lefties and it goes away from righties. He can two-seam it a little bit, too. With how big he is on the mound, it gets on you quick. It's got a lot of life and it's a heavy fastball."
"I think it's just a lot of late action. I don't know if he was meaning to cut it, but it was coming in on lefties, and it had just enough cut that it misses your barrel and you don't square it up good. He's got that late, short action, and it causes you to get a lot of ground balls and not square up as much."
Manager Clint Hurdle was equally impressed with Johnson's fastball, which routinely registered in the mid-90s on the radar gun Tuesday.
"The fastball is top shelf," Hurdle said. "If you want to start a franchise and pick a pitcher, you're not going to go wrong picking him."
John Bowker's pinch-hit single in the sixth made him the Pirates' only other baserunner against Johnson. Florida's starter scattered two hits over seven scoreless innings while striking out nine.
"He shut us down tonight," Hurdle said. "You're going to have those games in the big leagues. At the Major League level, there are a handful of pitchers that they stop you. You've got to catch them maybe when they're a little bit off or you get some opportunities to get some men on base, and we didn't have either one of those. He was not off and we didn't have anyone on base. They faced one man over the minimum as a team for the night."
While the Pirates' offense struggled to get going against Johnson, Bucs starter Paul Maholm had a tough time pitching out of trouble.
The lefty found himself in a pair of bases-loaded jams and could not slow the Marlins' lineup. In the second inning, Maholm gave up a two-run single to Johnson that gave Florida's ace all the run support he would need.
"He Little Leagued us," Hurdle said. "He struck us out, beat us on the mound and he had a two-run single."
Two innings later, Maholm appeared to bear down in a tough spot by striking out Omar Infante with one out and the bases loaded. But the lefty then walked Hanley Ramirez to push home the Marlins' fourth run and end his night.
"It was his shortest outing of the year," Hurdle said. "He wasn't sharp. The first inning was clean, and then after that there was the two-run single by the pitcher. We picked a guy off to get out of the third and we never cleared the fourth -- three hits and two walks."
Things appeared to unravel for Maholm in the second inning. After hitting Mike Stanton with a pitch, the lefty reacted quickly to knock down a sharp line drive from Marlins catcher John Buck. Maholm scrambled after the ball, but Buck reached. Two batters later, Johnson singled home a pair of runs to give Florida an early lead.
"It was one of those that apparently I'm not quick enough to catch," Maholm said. "I just kind of stumbled after it and lost my footing. After that, I just never really got back into rhythm and executed like I needed to."
Maholm finished the night allowing six runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings. The 28-year-old walked three and hit a batter, picking up his third loss of the season.
"I didn't give the team a chance at all to win," Maholm said. "Facing Johnson, you know you've got to be good, and I wasn't. You've just got to let it go, get back to work and get ready for my next start."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.