Reds 8, Rangers 4
CINCINNATI (AP)—Junior took two more steps toward the big, round number that Slammin’ Sammy is chasing.
Slumping David Ross also homered twice for Cincinnati, which scored all its runs off five homers. But it was the matchup of the close-to-600 sluggers—and the way that Griffey dominated it—that drew the attention.
“You could tell in batting practice that he was locked in,” Ross said. “He was hitting the ball to all fields. I mean, he hit the first two out and came close to four.”
Sosa came into the game one homer shy of becoming the fifth player to reach 600. His grand slam on Friday night led the Rangers to a 9-7 win in the interleague series opener.
Sosa went 0-for-5 on Saturday. He missed out on a chance to duplicate his grand slam when he came to bat with the bases loaded in the fifth and grounded out against Aaron Harang (7-2).
Instead, Junior was the one who drew closer to the next round number.
He hit a solo homer in the first inning off Jamey Wright (0-1), and added a two-run shot in the third that left him with 581—off a pitch barely above his ankles. Griffey is eighth on the career list, two behind Mark McGwire.
“The second one to Junior was not that bad of a pitch,” Wright said. “It was down in his zone.”
He nearly had more. Griffey lined out to Sosa in right field in his next at-bat, then sent Sosa to the wall to catch his drive in the sixth inning off Ron Mahay.
“He just missed four tonight,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “Unbelievable. He’s still one of the better hitters in baseball. You feel like every time up, he’s going to give you a good at-bat.”
Both sluggers are enjoying a resurgence.
The 38-year-old Sosa has 11 homers and is among the AL leaders with 51 RBIs, showing he still has some hop in his home run trot after sitting out a season. With one more homer, he will join Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays at the 600 level.
The 37-year-old Griffey is showing some spring in his step as well. He leads the Reds with 18 homers and has hit six of them in his last eight starts. Best of all, he has avoided the serious injuries that derailed his chase of Aaron’s record 755 after he came to his hometown team in 2000.
“When he’s hot, he hits everything hard,” Harang said. “If it’s down below the knees, he still hits the ball hard. He’s just getting started. It’s fun to watch that swing. He’s hit a lot of home runs, and he’s going to hit more.”
Griffey didn’t stay and talk about it, telling reporters, “See ya” as he walked out of the clubhouse.
The game matched the worst teams in the AL and the NL. The loser would be the one at the bottom of the majors, looking up at everyone else.
Griffey made sure it wouldn’t be the Reds.
He and Adam Dunn hit back-to-back homers in the first inning off Wright, who was making his second start of the season. The right-hander went on the disabled list with a sore shoulder after lasting less than three innings on April 10.
“I’m happy with how my arm felt,” Wright said. “I felt like I was finding myself a little bit, trying to get comfortable.”
Griffey hit a two-run shot in his next at-bat against Wright, who gave up four runs in five innings while throwing 88 pitches. Griffey is 7-for-15 career off the right-hander with three homers.
Harang needed 122 pitches to get through 5 2-3 innings. He angrily threw his glove and cap at the bench when he left the game after Travis Metcalf’s two-run double cut it to 4-3.
It was Griffey’s 54th multihomer game. He has 46 homers in interleague play, second to Jim Thome’s 52. … Rangers SS Michael Young extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. … Griffey and Dunn homered in the same game for the 33rd time. … Ross had his first multihit game since May 6. His three hits matched his season high. It was the sixth multihomer game of his career. … Reliever Mike Stanton grounded out in the sixth, ran hard to first base, then left with a strained hamstring.