Reds 16, Mariners 1
SEATTLE (AP)—Ken Griffey Jr. was overwhelmed by the reception.
He took a few deep breaths, bit his lip and ducked his head underneath the red-brimmed Cincinnati hat that looked so foreign with Griffey back in Seattle. He was being cherished—and thanked—by the city where he became a star, trying to keep the tears from appearing.
And once the adulation subsided, the Reds won just the way Griffey would like—with his teammates taking the spotlight.
Griffey was adored by Seattle fans on Friday night, playing his first game at Safeco Field since the end of the 1999 season. But it was teammates David Ross, Brandon Phillips and Aaron Harang who were responsible for the Reds’ 16-1 rout of the Mariners.
Ross and Phillips both homered twice and Harang pitched eight solid innings.
But this night was about Griffey—the one-time face of the Seattle organization, who was received with a lengthy, appreciative ovation during a pregame ceremony, and again in his first at-bat.
“It was more than I expected. A lot more than I expected,” Griffey said. “Awesome. If you had to put it in one word. It was something. To have that many people for that long cheering was pretty unbelievable.”
Griffey was apprehensive about how he would be received. He watched over the years as Seattle fans turned on Alex Rodriguez, gracing the Yankees’ third baseman with a hearty chorus of boos during his annual visits.
But Griffey is largely considered the savior of baseball in Seattle. He told the crowd he didn’t realize how much he missed being in Seattle. The fans, many of whom dusted off old No. 24 Griffey jerseys for the occasion, responded with raucous cheers.
Keeping his emotions in check was Griffey’s toughest task.
“I looked around and it was touching. But I didn’t want to start crying just so I have to go home and have my kids look at me and say ‘Daddy, you was a punk,”’ Griffey said, grinning toward his three children.
That didn’t mean the ceremony and reception didn’t become emotional for some of his teammates.
“To be honest with you, I teared up a few times,” said Josh Hamilton, who hit a solo homer in the fifth. “Just the excitement and the welcoming of the crowd. It was something you rarely see. It was just one of those things you are happy you are here to witness it.”
Griffey wasn’t much of a contributor to this victory, watching his Reds roll to just their third win in the last nine games, scoring a season high in runs.
Harang (8-2) won his third straight decision, allowing two hits and an unearned run in eight innings. He struck out seven and only once did Seattle put more than one runner on base against him.
Harang was given plenty of offensive support, although the one player everyone came to see was mostly quiet at the plate.
Flashbulbs popped around the stadium every time Griffey stepped into the batter’s box. He was given a standing ovation in the first as the music that played when he walked to the plate as a Mariner rang through the stadium.
After two throws to first base by Seattle starter Ryan Feierabend—both of which drew boos—Griffey hit a hard grounder just under first baseman Richie Sexson’s glove with one out in the Reds’ four-run first. He later scored on Alex Gonzalez’s two-out, three-run double that just eluded the reach of Raul Ibanez in left field.
Griffey finished 1-for-5 and struck out three times. He was pulled after striking out to end the top of the sixth, with the Reds leading 16-1. A few fans booed when Jeff Conine trotted out to right field in the bottom of the inning, while many others headed to the exits.
“I wish he would have gotten (a homer). I wanted to see this place erupt for him,” Ross said of Griffey. “That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of, seeing that tribute to him.”
Ross and Phillips homered in the third and again in the sixth. Ross hit a two-run homer in the third and a three-run shot in the sixth. Phillips hit two solo shots, and both ended the night for Seattle pitchers—Feierabend in the third and Jason Davis in the sixth.
Every Cincinnati starter had a hit and scored a run.
Feierbend (1-2) struggled after pitching well in his first two starts. The 21-year-old gave up nine runs and six hits in 2 2-3 innings, walking five. He threw 41 pitches in the first inning.
Seattle manager Mike Hargrove was ejected in the top of the second for arguing from the dugout with home plate umpire Mike Winters. Hargrove watched the rest of the game from the Mariners’ video room.
“I was glad I was there,” he said.
The lone highlight for Seattle was Ichiro Suzuki extending his hitting streak to 17 games with a single to center in the fourth. Seattle’s only other hit off Harang was a single by Jose Vidro in the third.
Harang has not lost since May 20 at Cleveland (six starts). … Seattle LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith made his major league debut striking out Griffey with two outs in the sixth. He pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings. … The 46,340 was the sixth-largest regular season crowd in Safeco Field history.