Cincinnati’s Ken Griffey Jr. in closing in on history, but his young teammate has been getting most of the attention.
Griffey will try to become the sixth player to reach 600 homers as his Reds go for a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves Sunday at Great American Ball Park.
Griffey hit No. 599 in Saturday’s 10-inning, 8-7 win, moving within one homer of joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa at 600. The home run was just the second in 31 games for the 38-year-old outfielder.
Sunday will be Griffey’s last chance for a while to hit the milestone homer in Cincinnati, as the Reds (27-29) open an eight-game trip Monday in Philadelphia. He is 6-for-21 (.286) with one homer all-time against Atlanta’s Tim Hudson (7-3, 2.90 ERA), who will start the series finale.
“Even his outs are hard,” manager Dusty Baker said of Griffey, who wasn’t available after the game. “It won’t be long.”
But despite Griffey’s historic shot, the home run that really had Cincinnati’s fans buzzing was Jay Bruce’s first major league homer, a walk-off drive in the 10th with Griffey on deck. Bruce, the Reds’ top prospect, went 3-for-5 to improve to 11-for-19 in his first five games in the big leagues.
“What a remarkable story Jay Bruce is,” Baker said of his 21-year-old outfielder. “I’ve never seen a better story. If he’s living a dream, I’d like to be in that dream.”
The victory put the Reds on the verge of their first series sweep of the Braves (29-27) since they took three games in Atlanta last July 16-18. The Braves swept Cincinnati in three games at Turner Field May 2-4.
Atlanta owns the best home record in the NL at 22-7, but is a league-worst 7-20 on the road. The Braves have dropped 20 straight one-run games on the road since August, matching the second-longest such streak in major league history.
Kansas City lost 21 straight one-run games on the road from 2000-01, and Pittsburgh dropped 20 in a row from 1985-86.
Atlanta also fell to 0-5 in extra innings and 2-16 in one-run games overall.
“That’s the way it’s been going for us, all these close games,” manager Bobby Cox said. “It’s cyclical. It will turn around. It always does.”
Chipper Jones, who leads the majors with a .413 batting average, went 2-for-3 a night after going hitless in five at-bats and committing a game-ending error at third. Jones has 81 hits, matching Ralph Garr’s Atlanta record through the end of May.
Now, Hudson will try to help the Braves avoid the sweep.
He turned in his best start of the season against the Reds on May 2, throwing a three-hitter and striking out a season-high 10 in his 11th career shutout, a 2-0 home win. He improved to 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in four career starts against Cincinnati.
Hudson has gone eight innings in his last two starts. He gave up two runs and a season-high 11 hits without getting a decision in the Braves’ 3-2 win in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
The Reds counter with Johnny Cueto (3-5, 5.40), who gave up three runs and threw 119 pitches in five innings of Tuesday’s 9-6 win over Pittsburgh. The rookie right-hander has gone five or fewer innings in three of his last four starts.
Cueto has never faced the Braves.