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Johnson pickup proving valuable for D-backs

There wasn’t a whole lot of pomp and circumstance when the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired third baseman Chris Johnson from the Houston Astros back on July 29.

Why would there be?

With apologies to the fourth-year major leaguer, many hadn’t heard of him. After all, he had been toiling in Houston on an Astros roster filled with names recognized only by baseball die-hards. And his name itself — Chris Johnson — is so common, it doesn’t do much to stand out.

While the San Francisco Giants were picking up Hunter Pence and the Dodgers picked up Shane Victorino, Hanley Ramirez and Joe Blanton to bolster their rosters, the D-backs quietly sent two minor leaguers to Houston for Johnson.

Johnson’s bat has been the opposite of quiet since.

In his first game with the club, Johnson jacked a grand slam in a 7-2 win over the Dodgers on July 30.

In just eight games with Arizona, Johnson is hitting .345 with five home runs and a startling 15 RBI — including five more in Tuesday night’s win over Pittsburgh. To put that mind-boggling stretch into perspective, Justin Upton didn’t get his 15th RBI until his 41st game this season. Sorry Justin, just making a point.

Johnson’s blistering pace projected over 162 games would see him hitting 102 home runs and driving in 304. OK, that’s obviously not going to happen, but it’s safe to say that Johnson has done more for his new team than any deadline acquisition in baseball.

Tuesday night, Johnson stepped into the batter’s box with runners on first and second and nobody out in the eighth inning of a tie game. It was a perfect time for a sacrifice bunt to move Justin Upton and Miguel Montero into scoring position. Thing is, Johnson had exactly zero sac bunts in his first 311 big league games. So manager Kirk Gibson let him swing away. Johnson delivered, sending a 1-0 Jason Grilli fastball over the center field wall.

And for good measure, Johnson connected on a two-run blast to center in the ninth to pad Arizona’s lead.

“I think he’s comfortable in Arizona,” Gibson said following the game. “He’s just having a great start for us.”

Most importantly, the Diamondbacks have seemingly fortified their third base position for the stretch run. Arizona had used seven different players at the hot corner this season to no avail.

You know the old saying…the eighth time is the charm.

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