The Marlins were the victim for an opponent's historical milestone, but they at least came away with a win in the process. On this date, September 10, 2000, legendary southpaw Randy Johnson recorded his 3000th career strikeout in a 4-3, 12-inning Florida victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
At 67-74 and 16.5 games back in the National League East (and owners of a five-game losing streak to boot), Florida was firmly relegated to playing spoiler by this point in the season entering the Sunday finale of a three-game series against the contending D-backs. If the Marlins were to record a win for the first time in almost a week, though, they would have to beat one of the top pitchers in the game. Despite turning 37 on this day 13 years ago, the Big Unit showed absolutely no signs of wearing down as he approached the twilight of his time in baseball. In fact, Johnson was actually in the midst of arguably the best stretch of his career. The overpowering, intimidating lefty accrued 9.6 WAR (by Fangraphs' calculations) and 364 strikeouts in his first year with Arizona in 1999, the best marks of his career to date, and eventually finished 2000 with 9.5 wins above replacement and 347 Ks. That was good for the best back-to-back season performances of Johnson's career - until he topped it with 10.4 WAR and 372 strikeouts in 2001, which earned him his third-straight NL Cy Young Award.
Johnson entered his start against Florida needing one strikeout for his 300th of the season and eight for the 3000th of his career; it was essentially a given that he'd reach the first mark, and considering the Marlins finished the 2000 season third-to-last in the NL with 1184 total Ks, it was a pretty sure bet he'd get the second mark on this date as well. Sure enough, Johnson struck out the first batter he faced, second baseman Luis Castillo, for no. 300, and three innings later he punched out third baseman Mike Lowell for no. 3000. As the AP tells it, the 13,117 fans at Pro Player Stadium gave Johnson, who finished with 14 strikeouts for the game, a standing ovation as he walked off the field, and the Marlins players themselves had nothing but respect for their opponent, with center fielder Preston Wilson saying "(Johnson) was as tough as he looked" and "there was nothing we could do."
But history didn't come with a flawless performance for Johnson, as the Fish scratched out three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Johnson's throwing error to second base on a comebacker allowed right fielder Mark Smith to score from second, and shortstop Dave Berg's double plated two more to make it 3-0. The D-backs answered right away with three runs in the top of the 6th, setting the stage for an extra-innings finish. In the bottom of the 12th, with Mark Kotsay on second base, Wilson singled off Arizona reliever Russ Springer to score Kotsay and give Florida a walk-off, 4-3 win.
The victory kicked off a 12-8 season-ending stretch that saw the Marlins finish 79-82, an improvement of 15.5 games from 1999 and the team's best mark since the 1997 championship season and subsequent fire sale. Still, despite the win, Marlins fans would have to agree that this day was all about the greatness of Randy Johnson.