Griffey gets 2 RBIs in debut with White Sox
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Ken Griffey Jr. hadn’t eaten in about a day. He was jittery a couple of hours before the game. Even in the seventh inning, when new teammate Jermaine Dye asked how he was doing, Griffey still felt it.
He was nervous.
The Kid might not be a kid anymore, but he sure felt like it in his return to the American League.
“I’m all right now, but we’ll find out tomorrow morning,” Griffey said of his nerves.
Clinging to a half-game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central after losing four of five, the White Sox could have used an extra arm at the trade deadline with a pitching staff that had a 6.20 ERA in its previous 16 games.
Instead, Chicago traded for Griffey, a 38-year-old slugger who’s battled injuries and struggled most of this season. The White Sox dealt reliever Nick Masset and minor leaguer Danny Richar to Cincinnati to get him, hoping the 13-time All-Star could find some of the brilliance that shot him up the career home run list early in his career.
Griffey delivered, driving in half of Chicago’s runs in a tight game before coming out for a pinch runner in the eighth inning.
“He did just what he always does,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “It didn’t surprise me at all what he did.”
White Sox players were thrilled to have Griffey in their lineup and a bigger-than-usual crowd seemed to be glad to see him at Kaufman Stadium for the first time since July 29, 1999, letting out a loud cheer when his image came up on the scoreboard during introductions.
More cheers followed when Griffey came to bat the first time in the second inning, and he didn’t take long to deliver for his new team.
Batting seventh for the first time since his rookie season in 1989—he hit third for the Reds—Griffey fought off a tough pitch from Luke Hochevar (6-9) with two strikes, then lined a two-out single up the middle for the game’s first run. He made solid contact again in the fourth inning, posing for a second before the ball came down in the glove of center fielder David DeJesus at the warning track.
“I hit it off the end of the bat,” said Griffey, who has a 17-game hitting streak at Kaufman. “I hit it OK, but you never know until you don’t see it anymore.”
Griffey came up again with two outs and runners on the corners in the sixth, and fisted a ball between first and second for a single that put Chicago up 2-0. He advanced on Nick Swisher’s run-scoring infield hit, and scored on Juan Uribe’s single to make it 4-0.
Griffey walked in the eighth and was replaced by pinch-runner Brian Anderson, finishing 2-for-3 in his first AL game since 1999. He didn’t get much action in center, easily settling under a high flyball from John Buck in the third inning in his only chance to make an out.
Even some of the Royals, many of whom had Griffey’s baseball cards as kids, were impressed with the older Kid.
“He’s a good hitter. He’s been in the game for a long time,” Hochevar said. “With a transaction that happens that quick, I was able to see very limited film on him, but I watched him growing up my whole life.”
Griffey’s stellar debut was a big boost for Vazquez (8-9), who’s been struggling.
The right-hander was 0-4 with a 6.23 ERA his last six starts, and had allowed three or more runs in his last nine starts. He also was coming off a miserable outing against Detroit, allowing six runs and 11 hits in seven innings.
Vazquez was sharp against the Royals, allowing three singles over the first five innings before departing after giving up two runs in the sixth. He allowed two runs and five hits, winning for the first time since June 17 against Pittsburgh. It also was his first road win since beating Seattle on May 10, a span of six starts.
“It was great for him to get that win and great mentally for his next start,” Guillen said. “It’s great for us, too, to give him the ball with confidence.”
Bobby Jenks pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.
Hochevar had a little more trouble.
He was hit hard early and tied a franchise record with three wild pitches. The right-hander has had trouble giving up hits with two outs most of the season — .326 average, 36 RBIs and Friday night was no different.
Hochevar matched a career high by allowing 10 hits in six innings, giving up all four runs with two outs.
“Overall it was an OK performance,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “I’m still disappointed with the two-out runs, especially with the three-spot (in the sixth). He’s got to do a better job of controlling the damage. Those crooked numbers hurt you and they hurt us tonight.”
Griffey wore No. 17 even after Swisher agreed to give up No. 30, Griffey’s number in Cincinnati. “I don’t want to be a disruption to the team and I’ve heard Nick is a little out there, so I’m going to stick with 17 and be happy with it,” Griffey said. … Royals RF Jose Guillen was a last-minute scratch due to a sore hip flexor. … Royals 2B Mark Grudzielanek had to leave the game in the ninth inning after colliding with first baseman Ross Gload on a popup down the line. X-rays on his right ankle were negative and Hillman said he’d be evaluated on Saturday.