Marlins on short end of history
Florida players appreciate Griffey's milestone
MIAMI -- Career home run No. 600 for Ken Griffey Jr. was the 109th shot surrendered in Mark Hendrickson's eight-year big league career.
"I'm sure I'll get a lot of attention for it, but ultimately, the fact that we didn't win the game didn't help it," Hendrickson said.
The veteran Marlins left-hander had his shortest outing of the season on Monday night, exiting after 2 1/3 innings in a game the Reds won, 9-4, in front of 16,003 at Dolphin Stadium.
The 33-year-old Hendrickson is well aware of historical significance. He has the distinction of being one of seven MLB pitchers to stand 6-foot-9 or taller. A former All-Pac 10 basketball player at Washington State University, he is part of select company to have played in the NBA and the Major Leagues.
"I got behind 3-1," Hendrickson said. "The curveball, it was one of those pitches that was in inner half [of the plate]. Good hitter. He hit it a long way."
Hendrickson was determined to pitch to Griffey, who had walked six times in the first three games of the four-game set.
It's not the first time Hendrickson faced a slugger looking to carve out a piece of history. While with the Dodgers last Aug. 1, Hendrickson matched up against Barry Bonds, who at the time was one long ball shy of Hank Aaron's magical mark of 755. Hendrickson retired Bonds three times that day, keeping history on hold for a few more days.
"I've been part of history in a lot of ways," Hendrickson said. "I went through Barry's stretch last year. For me, I'm going to pitch to him, just like anybody else. I'm going to try to make quality pitches.
"I think what I've learned in this game is you get in trouble when you try to nibble, and you put guys on via the walk. That's how big innings happen."
Jerry Hairston Jr. reached on an infield single to open the game. The Marlins had the infield shifted for Griffey, and Hairston used the alignment to swipe second and then third base.
Griffey was looking at a 3-0 count when Hendrickson threw an 85-mph fastball on the outside part of the plate. With the green light, Griffey took a big cut for strike one.
"I didn't read the swing very well," Hendrickson said of the swinging strike. "He might have been swinging for an area. I threw a fastball away, and if he didn't have a 37- or 38-inch bat, that was the only way he was going to hit that pitch.
"It was 3-0, I'm sure he was looking for something middle-in. Good hitters will do that. They'll swing through something that is not their pitch. I think that's something young guys will have to learn, too. Experienced hitters will swing through it, knowing they have two more [strikes]."
With the crowd on its feet, Hendrickson's next offering was a breaking ball that Griffey tagged for No. 600.
"That's good for him, 600," said Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, who pointed out a portion of Griffey's career was hindered by injuries. "I wish he had done it tomorrow. He did it. That's a great feat. Maybe if he had stayed healthy for two-and-a-half seasons, maybe we'd be talking about 700. But good for him. Good for his whole family. I'm sure they're proud of him, his dad and everybody."
For the second time in less than a week, the Marlins were on the receiving end of a historical shot. Last Thursday in Atlanta, Chipper Jones connected on No. 400.
"We saw 400 the other day with Chipper, and 600 today," said 40-year-old outfielder Luis Gonzalez, who has 351 career home runs. " It's not the side you want to be on when you see those. Nonetheless, it's a good milestone for him to have. Twenty, thirty years from now, you can say you were on the field and saw it. Unfortunately, we were on the short end of the stick for it tonight."
As disappointed as the Marlins were about the loss, they appreciate Griffey's contributions to the game.
"He's done an amazing job throughout his career to get to the point of where he's at right now," said Dan Uggla, who this season has 18 home runs, which is tied for the second most in the Major Leagues. "Even though it was hit against us, it's obviously pretty cool to be here and witness something like that. It doesn't happen often. You'd rather for it to be a solo homer, but it's still pretty cool."
Mike Jacobs homered for Florida on Monday, and he was playing first base as Griffey circled the bases on his milestone shot.
"He's got more home runs than I've got hits. [Six hundred,] that's pretty special," Jacobs said. "That doesn't come along except every 10 or 20 years. He's been playing in this game a long time. I grew up watching him. He was definitely an idol of mine. It definitely gave me chills to see it. Obviously, we'd rather have won the game."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.