Ken Griffey Jr. hits homer No. 591, drives in 4 runs in Reds’ 11-7 win over Marlins
CINCINNATI (AP)—Ken Griffey Jr. was never happier to give a bat away.
Once the game ended, the bat was in Davey Concepcion’s hands.
Baseball’s first professional team retired the shortstop’s No. 13 before the game. Griffey watched from the dugout as the Venezuelan got choked up while thanking his family and former Big Red Machine teammates.
“This guy means so much to this city, this organization,” said Griffey, whose father played with Concepcion. “It was just something that I’ll never forget, listening to him during his speech. It’s just good that he made it through, and we got it for him.”
Griffey got it rolling.
He hit a two-run double and a two-run homer off Sergio Mitre (5-7), his first since Aug. 10. Griffey is sixth on the career homer list, trailing Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa.
Florida has lost 10 of its last 11, tumbling a season-high 16 games under .500 at 57-73.
Right-hander Matt Belisle (7-8) struck out a career-high nine batters in seven-plus innings. He handed an 11-2 lead over to a bullpen that had another horrid eighth inning, allowing the Marlins to score six runs in all.
Belisle was warming up in the bullpen when Concepcion game to the microphone for his pregame speech to the crowd of 32,288. Concepcion wiped away tears with a towel, and Belisle stopped to watch.
“I had to put my glove down and clap for him,” Belisle said. “It was a special time.”
Concepcion anchored the Big Red Machine’s infield, which included Pete Rose and Hall-of-Famers Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Johnny Bench. Griffey Sr. was among the former teammates who were on the field before the game.
Concepcion made a ceremonial pitch to Bench, then did a round of media interviews while Junior led the Reds to their win.
Junior’s 28th homer in the fifth inning snapped a streak of 52 at-bats without one, matching his longest of the season. He set the bat aside to give to Concepcion.
“It started off a little rough with the rain,” Griffey said, referring to a shower that moved through before the ceremony. “But it cleared up, and it was a perfect day. The gods are looking after him.”
The Reds aren’t too bad lately, either. Since Pete Mackanin ran his first game as interim manager on July 3, the Reds have the best record in the NL at 28-19.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” Belisle said. “The bottom line is we’re a really good team right now, and it’s a good feeling.”
The offense is leading the surge, piling up 37 runs during the five-game winning streak. Griffey had three hits off Mitre, who hasn’t won since July 29. The right-hander is 0-2 with three no-decisions since then, giving up 24 runs in 28 2-3 innings.
“Mitre is in one of those stretches where he gets ahead of hitters, then he gets the ball up,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Mitre has made a career-high 24 starts. His pitches have flattened out as the innings have piled up.
“I’m not making any excuses,” he said. “I’ve got to pitch through this year. I can’t wait for this month to be over. It’s been brutal.”
Jeff Keppinger also had three hits for the Reds, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games. Josh Hamilton had three singles and scored twice, giving him a career-high hitting streak of 10 games.
Hermida had three hits and extended his hitting streak to a career-high nine games. He has homered in each of the last two. … Kim will make a couple of relief appearances before getting a start. The right-hander gave up three hits and a walk in the seventh, including Dunn’s 36th homer. … RHP reliever Ross Wolf was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque. … Concepcion was the eighth to have his number retired by the Reds, joining manager Fred Hutchinson (1), Bench (5), Morgan (8), manager Sparky Anderson (10), Ted Kluszewski (18), Frank Robinson (20) and Perez (24). Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 has been retired by Major League Baseball.