Reds 7, Expos 6

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MONTREAL (AP)—Ken Griffey Jr. pulled even with Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig on the career home run list, the last man between him and the 500 homer club.

Griffey hit his 493rd homer and Sean Casey went 4-for-5 with three RBIs as the Cincinnati Reds held on for a 7-6 win over the Montreal Expos on Friday night.

Griffey hit a two-run shot off Claudio Vargas (4-2) following Casey’s RBI double in the fifth to tie Gehrig for 20th on the career list.

“It’s just one of those things that I’ll take one day at a time and see what happens—I’m still a few away” Griffey said. “My main objective is to win ballgames and see what happens from there.”

The homer capped Cincinnati’s second three-run outburst and increased its lead to 6-2.

Three of Casey’s hits were for extra bases, including a double in the first and a two-run homer in the third, his seventh of the season. He singled off Jeremy Fikac in the sixth.

“It’s just a matter of having quality at-bats,” said Casey, who raised his NL-leading average to .390. “I’ve swung the bat like this before so I have had some stretches where I’ve done this, so for me it’s really not looking at the numbers so much but just trying to lock in on every at-bat, every pitch and having good at-bats.”

Cory Lidle (4-4) allowed five hits and five runs in 6 2-3 innings. He pitched his NL-leading third complete game in his last outing, a six-hitter for his third career shutout in a 7-0 win over Houston on Sunday.

Jose Vidro had an RBI grounder and Tony Batista homered in the first for Montreal, which saw its NL-worst record drop to 15-32.

Lidle also allowed a solo homer to Brad Wilkerson, whose leadoff shot in the sixth cut the lead to 6-3.

The Reds starter contributed an RBI single in the seventh off Luis Ayala to make it 7-3.

“Ayala just didn’t do the job and at the time in the dugout we said, ‘that’s a big run.”’ Expos manager Frank Robinson said. “And I meant that sincerely, it was a big run because he gave it up to a non-offensive player and that hurts.”

The hit proved to be the difference as the Expos scored three in the bottom half to close to within one.

Orlando Cabrera and Carl Everett led off the inning with consecutive doubles to draw the Expos to within 7-4. Everett advanced to third on Nick Johnson’s grounder and scored on Brian Schneider’s sacrifice fly, which brought Montreal to within two.

Pinch hitter Matt Cepicky homered off left-hander Mike Matthews to make it a one-run game.

“It felt good to see them battle back and get back in the ballgame, and at least give ourselves an opportunity to win it,” Robinson said. “But there’s still that mystery where we can go inning after inning after inning of doing nothing. You look at it as wasted innings, but it certainly was refreshing to see the ballclub keep fighting and battle back and get themselves back in the ballgame.”

Vargas, who left after Griffey’s homer, allowed nine hits and four runs in four-plus innings. He struck out six and walked one.

“I didn’t feel 100 percent today,” Vargas said. “I felt a little bit down today. I didn’t feel strong but I missed a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate and they hit a couple of good pitches, too. They’ve got a lot of goodhitters.”

Notes

Griffey is fourth among active players behind Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro. … Casey struck out against Chad Cordero in his final at-bat in the eighth. He had a career high five hits on June 6, 1999 at Kansas City. … Johnson was activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day. He grounded to third with runners at first and second to end the eighth, finishing 0-for-4 in his Montreal debut. “When you don’t win the ballgame, it’s frustrating,” Johnson said. “I had a couple of opportunities but I justdidn’t get it done tonight.”

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