Griffey and Adam Dunn each hit a two-run homer to help the Cincinnati Reds to their first series victory over the Cleveland Indians in nine years with a 4-2 victory Sunday. Both connected in the fourth inning to ruin Sowers’ much-anticipated major league debut.
“They’ve been there, done that a lot more than the average person,” Sowers said, referring to two sluggers who have a combined 731 career homers. “The first one was to a future Hall of Famer. It won’t be the last.”
Griffey’s 549th homer—off 350 different pitchers—broke a tie with Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and gave him sole possession of 11th place on the career list, 14 behind Reggie Jackson.
“I swung at the first pitch the first time,” said Griffey, who flied out to end the first. “The second time I tried to be a little more patient. I got a pitch and was able to hit it.”
Elizardo Ramirez (3-6) pitched 6 1-3 innings for his first win in six starts since May 23 as the Reds took two of three in the series. Cincinnati had not won a series from its state rival since the first year of interleague play in 1997, going 0-5-2 since.
Todd Coffey needed only five pitches to throw a perfect ninth for his sixth save. The Reds won for only the fifth time in 16 games overall, though they are 11-3 on the road since May 31.
“It was a good end to our trip,” manager Jerry Narron said. “Now it would be nice if we could win some games at home.”
Cleveland has lost seven of nine—all to NL teams—after going 15-3 in interleague play in 2005.
“We couldn’t do anything offensively,” manager Eric Wedge said after the Indians dropped their seventh straight series. “I know these guys care and the effort is there, but the mental toughness is not.”
Sowers (0-1) displayed composure despite admitting to a case of the jitters.
“I was nervous, but worked through it,” he said. “It was kind of an overwhelming experience, but hopefully I’ll make some adjustments and do well when I face them in five days.”
Sowers was drafted 20th overall in the first round by Cincinnati in 2001, but spurned the Reds’ contract offer to attend Vanderbilt University. He signed with the Indians in 2004 after being the No. 6 overall pick.
The left-hander compiled a 23-5 record and 2.00 ERA in 42 starts in the minors, including a 9-1 mark and 1.39 ERA in 15 starts at Triple-A Buffalo this year.
“Obviously, he’s on the fast track,” Griffey said. “Everyone is nervous in their first start, but he’s up here for a reason.”
Sowers allowed only a single to Rich Aurilia over the first three innings before walking Brandon Phillips to open the fourth. Griffey then hit a 3-1 pitch 418 feet to straightaway center for his 13th homer and a 2-0 lead.
“I missed my spot a little here, a little there,” Sowers said. “They were not terrible pitches, just not good enough.”
Aurilia singled and, one out later, Dunn hammered his 24th homer to make it 4-0.
“He’s going to be a good one,” Dunn said. “It was 3-0. I figured he doesn’t walk many guys. If it was in a certain area, I was going to swing and it was close enough to that area.”
Sowers allowed five hits and four runs over five innings, walking one and striking out three.
Limited to three singles over five innings, Cleveland scored twice in the sixth.
Victor Martinez then sliced an opposite-field drive that third-base umpire Ed Rapuano ruled was inches foul. Martinez walked to load the bases and Todd Hollandsworth hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
Ramirez balked the runners to second and third before getting Aaron Boone on a grounder to end the inning.
The Reds snapped their longest homerless streak of the season at five games. … The Reds were successful on 14 straight steal attempts until 1B Scott Hatteberg was thrown out by Cleveland C Kelly Shoppach in the seventh. … Sowers’ first pitch was a called strike to Ryan Freel, who came in hitting .536 (15-for-28) in his last six road games. … A crowd of 33,139 brought the three-game total to 99,138, the largest series attendance at Jacobs Field in 2006.