Junior steals spotlight in Reds win
Slugger collects two of five Cincinnati home runs
CINCINNATI -- A crowd of 37,413 fans came to Great American Ball Park on Saturday night, many with cameras in hand, ready for the moment.Each time Sammy Sosa came to the plate, the deluge of flashes would start, hoping to capture in blurry, fuzzy, personal style the addition of a fifth member to the 600-home run club. But, even if fans did not get the chance to snap a photo of Sosa's historic blast, Ken Griffey Jr. ensured that the many camera wielders in attendance did not leave disappointed. On a night when the Reds combined for five home runs, Griffey stole the spotlight from Sosa and all others, hitting the 580th and 581st home runs of his career -- and coming a few feet from adding two more -- to bring his own hailstorm of camera flashes and help push Cincinnati past Texas, 8-4. "I think he upstaged everybody tonight," said catcher David Ross, who had two home runs of his own in the game. "He's a future Hall of Famer, and you could tell that he was locked in. He hit two, and then the next two were to the warning track. That's close to four." "That was unbelievable," manager Jerry Narron said. "He hit the ball well every time. Just missed having four tonight. Unbelievable." Griffey's first- and third-inning homers served as a reminder to Texas starter Jamey Wright of just how dangerous his bat still is. "I don't think I'm the first pitcher he's hit two home runs off of in a game," said Wright, who gave up four earned runs via three homers, along with nine hits, a walk and a strikeout in five innings to take the loss. "The two pitches I threw him were pretty good, down low. He just went down and got them. "He's still pretty good." The Reds offensive onslaught, which included the Griffey and Ross homers as well as a first-inning solo shot by Adam Dunn, gave starter Aaron Harang more breathing room than he's had in recent starts. The extra support was well timed. While Harang did well at disaster control, he was not as crisp as he has been at times this season. The right-hander left after 5 2/3 innings, having given up three runs (two earned) on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts for his seventh win of the season. "I didn't feel like I was as sharp as I normally am," Harang said. "I thought the strike zone was maybe a little tight, but that's going to happen." Narron said that he was glad to see Harang not have to perform with near-perfection in order to get a win.
"I don't think he had his best stuff by any stretch," Narron said. "But he gave us a chance to win the ball game. I'm tickled to death that he comes out with a win, because we've had some games for him [where] we didn't score runs."While Griffey's home runs may steal most of the headlines, Narron said he was just as pleased to see Ross find some offensive power to go along with his already impressive defensive play. "The big thing with Ross is, he's done a great job with our starting pitching, and I think he's the best in baseball in throwing guys out trying to steal, so he does a lot of things for us even when he doesn't hit," Narron said. "You don't want to be a one-dimensional player," Ross said. "I've been working at it, and I'm still going to have to continue to work, but it felt good tonight." The Reds, who hit five home runs for the second time this season, managed to avoid claiming the worst record in baseball with the win. Cincinnati entered the game one-half game ahead of Texas in the cellar of the Majors. Narron said that he was glad to see such fan support despite the Reds' struggles in the first half of the season. "It's awesome to see that many fans behind us like they are," Narron said. "I think they know we're battling every night, even when games get away from us, even when games get away from us at home. I think people appreciate that."
Patrick Allegri is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.