Coming off a right shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of last season, Johnson (1-3, 5.36 ERA) has been up and down for Miami in eight starts. While he has shown flashes of his former dominant self, he has often struggled with his command, particularly with his slider.
His last time out, however, Johnson was able to earn his first win since last April, tossing seven frames of two-run ball against the Pirates while relying heavily on his curveball.
"Wins have been tough at times to come by," Johnson said. "You still have to keep going out there and keep doing your routine ... It's all about location. I can throw 88-92 and keep my fastball down and be as effective as throwing 95-96, and being a little more up."
The Indians, meanwhile, are also striving to be better all around despite sitting atop the American League Central. Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti said Saturday he has been pleased with the ability the team has shown in all facets of the game, but is concerned about inconsistencies in the team's performance at times.
An aspect of Cleveland's performance that Antonetti isn't concerned about is the effort of right-handed pitcher Derek Lowe, who was acquired by the Indians in the offseason and has transformed into the ace of Cleveland's rotation. Lowe (6-1, 2.05 ERA) will toe the rubber opposite Johnson in Sunday's rubber match, and he is coming off his first shutout performance in seven years.
"Derek has really done everything we could've potentially asked for, not only with his contributions when he's on the mound," Antonetti said. "He's given us an opportunity to win every game he's started, really. He competes exceptionally well. He manages games well. When he's had runners on base, he's been able to execute pitches to get out of it."
Marlins: Bonifacio could be headed to DL
Emilio Bonifacio, the Major League leader in steals, sprained his left thumb Friday night and could be headed for the disabled list. Bonifacio was out of the lineup Saturday, snapping his streak of 112 consecutive games played. He will be examined by Marlins team physicians Monday in Miami.
Bryan Petersen, who was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday, is expected to remain in center field with Bonifacio sidelined.
A win in Sunday's start will mark the 50th of Johnson's career, which would make him just the third Marlins pitcher to reach that mark. Ricky Nolasco and former Marlin Dontrelle Willis are the other two to reach 50 wins in a Marlins uniform and are tied for the club record with 68 career victories.
Indians: Damon improving at the plate
Despite a .167 batting average this month, the Indians are confident in veteran outfielder Johnny Damon's progress at the plate. Damon didn't play in Saturday's win, but he has reached base in eight of his last 13 plate appearances, giving Cleveland confidence in him moving forward.
"It's been a process for Johnny to get re-acclimated to Major League pitching," Antonetti said. "I think we've seen over the last week or so the quality of his at-bats continue to improve. His command of the strike zone has continued to improve. His swing mechanics are getting better, and he's looking more comfortable in the batter's box."
• Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez's first-inning single Saturday gave him a hit in each of his five career games against the Indians.