06/20/2004 5:10 PM ET
Junior belts home run No. 500
Griffey reaches milestone as Reds avoid sweep
By Alan Eskew / Special to MLB.com
|Ken Griffey Jr. is the 20th member of the 500 Home Run Club -- and the sixth-youngest player to reach the milestone. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Junior joins 500 Club
Griffey launches No. 500: 56K | 350K
Griffey launches No. 500: 56K | 350K
ST. LOUIS -- Ken Griffey Jr. got his milestone home run on Sunday, but it was Jason La Rue's home run that stung the Cardinals the most.
Griffey, who had been sitting on 499 since June 13, belted Matt Morris' fifth pitch of the sixth inning over the right-field fence, an estimated 393 feet, to leadoff the inning in the Reds' 6-0 victory over the Cards, who had their six-game winning streak snapped.
The Reds, who failed to hold leads in the first two games of this series, ended a nine-game road losing skid with the victory. Jung Keun Bong and three relievers combined to shutout the Cardinals on four hits.
Griffey hit a 2-2 pitch out, becoming the 20th member of the 500 home run club.
Morris, who served up a three-run homer to LaRue in the Reds' five-run fourth, has allowed a Major League-high 23 home runs in 15 starts.
"He [Griffey] had the big one," LaRue said. "I had the little one that just happened to score more runs. He's a home run hitter. I'm a sometimes hitter. I'm thrilled to be a part of the game, and especially to homer on the same day Junior got his 500th."
Morris was more upset with the one LaRue hit out than allowing No. 500 to Griffey.
"That's a solo shot and, obviously, the guy has hit 500 home runs," Morris said. "The one that eats me up was the one LaRue hit. That was the turning point of the game. I can limit the damage, but I made a mistake."
|Ken Griffey Jr.'s milestone home runs
||April 10, 1989
||June 15, 1993
||May 21, 1996
||April 13, 1998
||April 10, 2000
||June 20, 2004
| List of 500 homers 500 Club: By the numbers|
Ryan Freel began the Reds' fifth with an infield single and D'Angelo Jimenez rolled a single through the infield on a hit-and-run. Morris walked Sean Casey to load the bases for Griffey, who hit a sacrifice fly to Jim Edmonds in center. Adam Dunn, who was in a 1-for-14 funk, stroked a run-producing single, making it 2-0.
"I was worried about Casey, Griffey and Dunn," Morris said.
LaRue, however, has been salsa-hot lately. He homered on Saturday night and has hit six of his seven home runs in his past dozen games.
"LaRue's was the biggest at-bat of the game," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "If we get a ground ball double play, then it's 2-0."
LaRue's three-run blast was the biggest at-bat of the game, but Griffey's 500th was one for the history books.
Griffey was 2-for-11 with one home run off Morris before the sixth inning home run. His only other home run off Morris was No. 476 on June 25, 2003, at St. Louis.
The sold out Busch Stadium crowd of 45,620 gave Griffey a prolonged standing ovation after the home run and his teammates swarmed out of the dugout to shake his hand after he circled the bases. Griffey then came out of the dugout and doffed his cap to the cheering fans.
After the top of the sixth ended, the Reds relievers left the visitor's bullpen in left-center to congratulate Griffey as he trotted out to play center, while the fans gave him another standing ovation.
Griffey flied out to Jim Edmonds in left-center, just shy of the warning track, in his first at-bat to leadoff the second, which created a stir among the crowd.
Griffey's 500th overshadowed a fine performance by Bong, the Korean left-hander who has making his fourth Major League start and his third for the Reds since his June 8 promotion from Class AAA Louisville.
Bong, who entered the game 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA, blanked the Cards, who had 10 or more hits in the six previous games, on three hits before departing after six innings and 102 pitches. He walked three and struck out five.
"That was awesome and an honor," Bong said to pick up his first Reds' victory on Griffey's big day. "He said to me before the game, 'let's do it.' He finally made it."
Reds pitching coach Don Gullett, also, had some sage advice for Bong before the game.
"He said throw strikes and keep the ball down," Bong said.
Mike Matheny led off the Cards' third with a single, the first hit off Bong. In the fifth, Bong yielded a double to Scott Rolen and walked Reggie Sanders, but retired Ray Lankford on a grounder to Casey to end the inning.
With two outs in the sixth, Bong walked Rolen and Jim Edmonds doubled. Bong got out of that jam when Sanders flied out to Freel.
"He left a lot of balls out over the plate," Sanders said. "We just weren't able to get on top of it for the most part. We just missed a lot of pitches. We had some opportunities."
Reds relievers Gabe White, John Riedling and Mike Matthews held the Cards to one single over the final three innings to preserve the shutout.
The day, however, belonged not to LaRue or Bong, but to Griffey.
"I'm sure he feels like a 30-pound weight is off his chest," Dunn said. "He might hit a lot of home runs in a hurry now."
Alan Eskew is a contributing writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.