Reds 6, Expos 5
CINCINNATI (AP)—Melissa Griffey remained in Florida for Cincinnati’s weekend series against Montreal, and she reminded her husband before Sunday’s finale to not hit the four home runs he needed to reach 500.
Ken Griffey Jr. kept his word, hitting just two.
He hit his 497th and 498th homers on consecutive pitches, and the Reds rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to beat the Expos 6-5.
“I told my wife to stay home his weekend, because it was only a three-game series,” Griffey said. “She said, ‘Don’t hit four today.’ She would have been mad. When I got the walk, I said, ‘Whew.”’
Pinch-hitter Jacob Cruz hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth that tied the score against Rocky Biddle (0-4), and the Reds won the game on singles by pinch-hitter Barry Larkin, Ryan Freel and D’Angelo Jimenez, who went 3-for-5. Cruz’s homer was his first since May 29, 2002, and it was his first as a pinch-hitter.
After Montreal took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, Jimenez singled and Griffey hit a 3-2 pitch from Livan Hernandez to the opposite field for his 16th homer of the season. He pulled the next pitch he saw from Hernandez 409 feet to right field to tie the game in the third.
“He’s having fun,” Reds manager Dave Miley said. “He feels good. It’s fun to watch and see them change that number (in center field) and see who he’s catching and who he’s passing. The home runs are good for the team, too.”
“You want to see a friend be successful, especially when they’ve gone through as much garbage as he has,” Larkin said. “People have been very critical of him. Now, the same people are jumping on the bandwagon. I get more enjoyment out of seeing that as anything.”
Griffey has three home runs in Cincinnati’s last two games and nine in his last 14 games. With two more, he would become the 20th major leaguer to reach 500.
“The most important thing is we got the win,” he said. “I would have been satisfied with getting the guy in with a single.
After his second homer, Griffey responded to the crowd by coming out of the dugout and waving his cap. The crowd of 31,814 booed when Hernandez walked Griffey on four pitches with one out and nobody on in the sixth inning.
Griffey flied out in the eighth. His family will join him on the road trip to Oakland and Cleveland.
“When you win, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I think the fans don’t know how important they are. When they’re behind us, they give us the extra energy level to go out and perform for them.”
Mike Matthews (1-0) earned the win by getting the final out in the ninth after Montreal had taken a 5-3 lead on pinch-hitter Terrmel Sledge’s two-out RBI single and Brad Wilkerson’s run-scoring bunt single.
“We had a shot at shutting them down and winning the series,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said. “It’s very disheartening when you do things right on the field and you can’t get over the hump.”
With its second straight last at-bat win, Cincinnati maintained a two-game lead in the NL Central.
Hernandez, the 314th pitcher to allow a Griffey homer, allowed three runs and six hits in eight innings. He is 0-3 in his last four starts.
Cincinnati starter Todd Van Poppel gave up three runs and five hits in five innings.
Van Poppel allowed four runs in the first inning of his previous start and gave up three in the first Sunday before retiring 14 of his final 16 batters. Jose Vidro hit a two-run double in the first and scored on Nick Johnson’s double.
“I can’t explain it. How can we be shut down totally by the same guy wejust got three runs off of?” Robinson said.
Dunn struck out three times. … Cincinnati’s Sean Casey went 0-for-4, dropping his league-leading average to .377. … RF Austin Kearns was out of the Cincinnati lineup for the eighth consecutive game due to a sore on the side of his right thumb. … Larkin missed his third consecutive start with sore abdominal muscles. … Lopez was 1-for-13 while starting the previous three games before his first-inning single. … Biddle blew a save chance for thethird time in 14 opportunities. … The Expos have lost their last six series.