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Huge milestone for Big Unit

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Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Arizona lefthander Randy Johnson became just the fourth pitcher in major league history to reach the 4,000 mark in strikeouts, as he fanned eight batters during the Diamondbacks' 3-2 setback to San Diego on Tuesday.

The five-time Cy Young Award winner accomplished the milestone when he struck out Jeff Cirillo in the eighth inning. He entered the contest with 3,992 career strikeouts. Johnson (9-6) unfortunately took the loss after surrendering three runs -- two earned -- on four hits in eight innings. He did not walk a batter. Nolan Ryan (5,714), Roger Clemens (4,200) and Steve Carlton (4,136) are the other hurlers to reach the 4,000 plateau in career strikeouts. "Those are three of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, and Randy's right there with them -- right where he belongs," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly. Johnson became the fastest pitcher to attain 4,000 strikeouts, doing it in 3,237 1/3 innings. Ryan is second, needing 3,844 2/3 frames to get there. Johnson has 2,130 career strikeouts versus the American League and 1,870 against the National League. It was just another chapter in the stellar career of the 40-year-old Johnson. Earlier this season, he became the oldest pitcher to ever throw a perfect game, as he retired all 27 batters he faced in a 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on May 18. "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," said Johnson. ylink> did it for the New York Yankees against Montreal on July 18, 1999. It was also the first one in the National League since July 28, 1991, when the Expos ' Dennis Martinez accomplished the feat against the Dodgers .

Johnson had one previous no-hitter. That came when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners against Detroit on June 2, 1990. Johnson became the fifth pitcher to throw no-hitters in both leagues, joining Young, Jim Bunning, Hideo Nomo and Nolan Ryan.

It was also the first no-hitter in Diamondbacks history and the first time Atlanta had been no-hit since April 7, 1979 when Ken Forsch of Houston turned the trick.

The Diamondbacks had scored just one run in Johnson's previous two starts and although they didn't do much damage against Mike Hampton , who also threw a complete game, two runs were easily enough on this 73-degree night at Turner Field. The crowd of 23,381 stood cheering in the ninth inning and chanted "Randy!, Randy!, Randy!" after he struck out pinch-hitter Eddie Perez for the final out of the game and was mobbed by his teammates at the mound.

"It ranks up there with a lot of great accomplishments," Johnson said. "The most important thing was winning the game. Looking at it now, I would have been a little upset if I lost it in the ninth. But everybody played well and we got the win, so that is the most important thing."

Arizona gave Johnson some support courtesy of Alex Cintron 's RBI double in the second inning and Chad Tracy 's run-scoring single in the seventh.

Johnson logged his 195th career double-digit strikeout game, 20 behind Ryan's all-time record. While it will be a stretch for Johnson to catch Ryan in that regard, the Big Unit is approaching another milestone. He is 48 strikeouts away from 4,000 for his career.

A nine-time All-Star, the perfect game was the icing on the cake on Johnson's career. He was named co-MVP of the World Series in 2001 and in 2002 he won the pitching triple crown.

If there was any question that Johnson wasn't going to return to championship form after an injury-plagued 2003 campaign, Tuesday night erased all those doubts and further solidified his legacy as one of the greatest lefthanders of all-time.

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