Johnson strikes out 4,000th batter

Posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2004

PHOENIX The word ''bittersweet'' kept coming up when Randy Johnson talked about reaching 4,000 career strikeouts.

Johnson joined Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Steve Carlton as the only pitchers to reach the milestone, and still couldn't change the Arizona Diamondbacks' luck.

The Diamondbacks lost their franchise-record 11th straight game, 3-2 to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.

''I just really wanted to enjoy this as much as I did the (perfect) game in Atlanta, but it's very hard to enjoy something when you lose a ballgame, because that's all I live for now,'' Johnson said.

He struck out eight and reached 4,000 strikeouts faster than Ryan (5,714), Clemens (4,200) and Carlton (4,136).

Johnson (9-6) fanned Jeff Cirillo for the second out of the eighth inning, reaching 4,000 in 3,237 1-3 innings, a strikeout-to-inning ratio of 11.12. None of the others had a double-figure ratio, with Ryan's 9.55 the next-best based on 3,844 2-3 innings.

''Those are three of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, and Randy's right there with them right where he belongs,'' Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said.

Khalil Greene homered off Johnson with one out in the eighth, providing the winning margin for the Padres, who won for the seventh time in eight games.

Greene got all of a fastball and hit it just far enough to bounce off the fence into the grandstand.

''It's just a testament to him and what he's done is pretty cool in itself,'' Greene said.

Arizona closed within a run on Danny Bautista's solo homer in its half of the eighth off Akinori Otsuka, but again fell short. The Diamondbacks stranded 10 runners to San Diego's two, leaving the bases loaded in the sixth and eighth.

''I don't think I swung at a strike all night,'' said catcher Robby Hammock, whose third strikeout ended the eighth. ''I wish I would have been able to help him win.''

After Terrence Long doubled, Johnson threw three sliders to Cirillo to reach a 2-1 count before blowing a fastball by him to make it 2-2. He missed with a slider to run the count full, and recorded his last strikeout with an 87 mph slider low on the outside corner as Cirillo took a half-swing.

Long was thrown out by Hammock attempting to steal third on the play to end the inning. Johnson tapped fists with Hammock as they walked back to the Diamondbacks dugout, and the big left-hander waved his cap to the crowd twice, once to his left and then right.

He received high fives in the dugout, but went into the clubhouse tunnel later, missing cries from the crowd for a curtain call.

Johnson's spot in the batting order led off the ninth, and pinch-hitter Roberto Alomar singled off closer Trevor Hoffman, reaching third while Hoffman retired Scott Hairston on a popup and Steve Finley and Danny Bautista on grounders to Greene at shortstop.

''We were looking for a win and the 4,000 strikeouts, so we could celebrate,'' Alomar said. ''But you stop celebrating when you're losing.''

Johnson, whose 196 double-digit strikeout games are second only to Ryan's 215, allowed three runs on four hits in eight innings.

Brian Sweeney (1-0) held the Diamondbacks to one run on four hits and a walk in his first major league start after seven relief appearances, Jay Witasick, Scott Linebrink and Otsuka limited Arizona to one run in 2 2-3 innings. Hoffman earned his 18th save in 20 chances.

''I'm just glad we won the game,'' Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. ''You see history like that, I'm a fan. To see one of the greatest pitchers of all time get 4,000 strikeouts, it is a privilege.''

The Padres, knowing Johnson would be around the strike zone, started off swinging early in the count, and it paid in the third when Humberto Quintero singled and Greene doubled, both on the second pitch.

Quintero scored on a sacrifice fly by Cirillo, and Greene made it 2-0, scoring from third when shortstop Alex Cintron booted Mark Loretta's grounder.

Bautista got Arizona's first hit in the fourth, and Sweeney walked Luis Gonzalez. But the threat ended when Shea Hillenbrand popped up and right fielder Brian Giles ran down Chad Tracy's drive against the bullpen fence.

The Diamondbacks cut the deficit to 2-1 in the sixth on Bautista's RBI single after Steve Finley's one-out double. But the Padres wasted a scoring opportunity when Gonzalez's double off reliever Jay Witasick hit the center field wall so hard that Bautista was held at third.

Hillenbrand lined out to Greene at short and, after Witasick walked Tracy, Cintron hit a sharp grounder to Greene for an inning-ending forceout.

Notes: With a shift on against Gonzalez, Cirillo chased the slugger's popup into left field from third base, nearly running into Klesko, to make the catch in the second. ... Johnson led the majors in strikeouts five consecutive years with 329 combined for Houston and Arizona in 1998, then 364, 347, 372 and 334 before injuries limited him to 18 starts and 125 strikeouts in 2003. He has a major league-high 129 this year. ... Johnson had a no-hitter with Seattle in 1990, and a perfect game May 18 at Atlanta.

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