CINCINNATI (AP)—Ken Griffey Jr. couldn’t have felt any better if he’d just hit homer No. 500.
Griffey remained stuck at 499 homers, but the Cincinnati Reds broke their seven-game losing streak Tuesday with a dramatic comeback. Barry Larkin’s infield single in the 11th inning brought a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers.
With the bases loaded and the Rangers using five infielders, Larkin hit a grounder up the middle that bounced off Alfonso Soriano’s glove and ended the Reds’ week of misery.
“Sometimes, that’s what you need to get when you’re struggling,” Griffey said.
The Reds got everything except the one thing the 36,501 fans came to see—a little hometown history.
Griffey got an ovation every time he came to bat. He hasn’t been so warmly received in his hometown since he came to the Reds in 2000, before a series of injuries turned the cheers to jeers.
“When I first got here, that’s how it was,” said Griffey, who went 2-for-4. “For them to do that, that was greatly appreciated.”
So was a rare meltdown by the Rangers’ bullpen and a fluke play that turned the game.
The Reds rebounded from a disastrous 0-7 trip by rallying to tie it in the ninth off closer Francisco Cordero, who had been perfect in 19 save opportunities. Jason LaRue’s run-scoring single tied it at 4.
LaRue also started the winning rally with a leadoff single in the 11th off Erasmo Ramirez (3-3), who then hit Jermaine Clark with a pitch. Ryan Freel singled off Doug Brocail to load the bases with one out.
Manager Buck Showalter brought in outfielder Eric Young to play second base and moved Soriano up the middle. He charged Larkin’s grounder to the right of the mound, but had to pull up when Young cut in front of him, leaving Soriano with a tough play he couldn’t make.
“I came back because I saw him, and I’ve got to catch it on the short hop,” Soriano said.
The Reds piled up beyond first base, celebrating a long-awaited win.
“I hit it between two guys, and there was mass hysteria,” Larkin said. “I think there was a lot of frustration built up, so this was a big relief.”
Todd Jones (5-1) pitched a perfect 11th to get the win, which satisfied a less-than-capacity crowd that came to see history but had to settle for a slump-busting victory.
Griffey had an RBI double in the first inning off Kenny Rogers, then struck out and grounded out against the left-hander as flashbulbs popped in the stands.
The crowd tossed plastic beer bottles onto the field in the eighth after the Rangers intentionally walked Griffey with a runner on third, figuring it had cost him one more swing at No. 500.
The ninth-inning rally gave him one more opportunity.
Griffey, plagued by injuries the last three seasons, lowered his shoulder and plowed into catcher Rod Barajas, who wound up on his back but made the tag and held on.
Rogers was in line to become the majors’ first 10-game winner when he turned a 4-2 lead over to the bullpen after the sixth.
Soriano hit a three-run homer and Herbert Perry had a solo shot off the batter’s eye in center—an impressive drive of more than 400 feet—off left-hander Jung Keun Bong, putting Texas ahead 4-2 in the fifth.
Pitching against the team he spurned two years ago by invoking his no-trade clause, Rogers gave up two runs and six hits in six innings on a muggy night.
Griffey has two more chances to make history in Cincinnati. The Reds leave on a one-week trip following their three-game interleague series.
Griffey hit two homers in his last home game, June 6 against Montreal. He managed only one during the Reds’ winless trip to Oakland, Cleveland and Philadelphia. He sat out a rain-delayed game against the Phillies on Mondaynight.
It was the Rangers’ first game in Cincinnati. They took two of three from the Reds in Arlington two years ago. … Soriano has hit safely in eight of his last nine games. … Texas is 3-1 in extra innings. … Larkin was back in the Reds lineup for the first time since straining abdominal muscles a weekearlier. … No player has hit his 500th homer against the Rangers.