Griffey's pair of blasts not enough
Right fielder hits 583rd, 584th career homers in loss
SEATTLE -- Junior has left the building.For the final game in his three-day love fest of a first return to Seattle and Safeco Field in eight years, Ken Griffey Jr. spectacularly gave Mariners fans what they wanted all weekend -- a home run. Then he gave them another one for good measure. But the Reds allowed the Mariners to mount a comeback, surrendering three unanswered runs in a 3-2 loss. The go-ahead run scored on Willie Bloomquist's suicide squeeze bunt in the seventh inning. "You'd like to see us win the game with Griff having the day he had," said Reds manager Jerry Narron, whose club dropped the final two games of the series. It was the fourth-straight series in which Cincinnati lost the rubber game. Griffey's 583rd and 584th career homers put him in sole possession of seventh all-time, one spot ahead of Mark McGwire. All weekend, Mariners fans temporarily became Reds fans each time Griffey stepped up in the No. 3 spot of the lineup or took his spot in right field. He received countless standing ovations in the three days, some lasting several minutes. "It was everything I thought it would be and more," Griffey said of the weekend. "I really enjoyed my time, the four days I was here." It was a scoreless game with two outs in the top of the first inning, when Griffey hit a 2-0 pitch to left field against Miguel Batista. Left fielder Bloomquist made a leaping attempt for the ball at the fence but just missed it. Not knowing he had the homer, and with no signal from third-base umpire Brian Runge, Griffey paused between first and second base. Once it became clear Bloomquist didn't have the ball, the sold-out crowd of 46,064 erupted with excitement. "I didn't see the umpire signal a home run," said Griffey, who entered 2-for-9 without a homer in the series. "I didn't see the infielders and outfielders going off the field. I was just looking around. Finally the second-base umpire said, 'Let's go.'" As for the long ball that surpassed McGwire, there was no doubt. With two outs in the fifth and no one on, Griffey tattooed Batista's first pitch and admired the 428-foot drive off the facing of the middle deck in right field. His 21st homer of the season gave Cincinnati a 2-0 lead. "To hit two homers like that to cap off a nice three days here for him, he might not get back to this ballpark for the rest of his career," Reds starter Bronson Arroyo said. "So it was wonderful to see that."
Griffey was originally listed as the designated hitter in Narron's lineup, with Norris Hopper in right field. Moments before game time, Narron scratched Hopper and Griffey was moved to right field."I had a couple of lineups, one was posted," Narron said. "I was trying find a way to get Javy [Valentin] some at-bats in the DH spot." It proved to be a bit more than that and Griffey was behind it. "I talked to Jerry and said I wanted to go out there," Griffey said moments later. "It wouldn't be fair to the people of Seattle for me to just DH." Griffey added a nice defensive play in the second, robbing Adrian Beltre of a bloop hit when he made a nice backhanded sliding catch and roll on the grass. Given two extra days' rest to combat feeling rundown, Arroyo (2-9) responded well for much of the game. He took the two-run lead into the sixth. With runners on second and third, Ben Broussard smoked a 3-2 fastball to right field for a two-run double. "I felt a lot better," said Arroyo, who allowed three earned runs and 10 hits with one intentional walk and four strikeouts. "I felt like I had normal stuff today. I felt like I had command of the game and doing the things I should be doing out there. Hopefully, I continue to feel like that." In the decisive seventh, Yuniesky Betancourt led off with a double. Next was Jamie Burke, who dropped a bunt toward the mound. Arroyo spun and threw to Juan Castro at third base, but the sliding Betancourt beat the tag. "It was tough to get out of that without a run once you have first and third with nobody out," said Arroyo, who fell to 0-7 over his last nine starts. Betancourt was running all the way when Bloomquist laid down the perfect suicide squeeze bunt on the grass in front of home plate. Arroyo fielded the ball but had no chance at getting Betancourt as he slid home. Griffey had dinner Thursday night with former Mariners teammate Jay Buhner. The close friend must have been keeping up with the struggling 29-47 Reds. "Jay actually called today's game the first day I was here," Griffey said. "He said, 'Knowing your luck, you're going to hit a couple of home runs and you're going to lose, 3-2. He said that on Thursday." How right he was. In the Mariners' eighth, Griffey caught the third out on Betancourt's routine fly ball. The last to run off the field, fans gave Griffey one last send off with a standing ovation. The 37-year-old, who spent 1989-99 as the Mariners' biggest and brightest star, stopped in front of the third-base dugout. He turned and waved and then removed his cap in appreciation. "It was my way of saying thank you for coming out and supporting me," Griffey said. "It was like that every inning I ran out, because they thought it was my last time here. I wish it could be like that all the time."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.