<
>

Griffey's double breaks slump, sparks rally

5/21/2004

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Jimy Williams didn't know about Uncle
Freddie's phone call.

The Houston Astros manager decided to pitch to slumping Ken Griffey Jr. with the game on the line Friday, and paid for it.

Griffey's slump-busting double sent the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-4
victory that turned on a phone call.

Before Griffey came to bat with the score tied and two outs in
the sixth, Ken Griffey Sr. relayed a batting tip to his son through
a relative sitting in the front row.

Uncle Freddie passed it along, and Griffey immediately put it to
use.

"He said I wasn't using my hands," he said.

The double just inside first base snapped a 4-all tie and a
personal 0-for-13 skid, sending the Reds to their sixth victory in
seven games. Cincinnati has surged into a second-place tie with
Chicago in the NL Central, a game behind the Astros.

Austin Kearns followed with a two-run single, but it was the
decision to face Griffey -- and the unusual batting tip he received
-- that turned the game.

"With first base open, you've got a couple of options and you
go with the percentages," Griffey said.

That's exactly what Williams did.

Sean Casey already had two hits when he came to bat with Barry Larkin on second and two outs in the sixth. Williams preferred
facing Griffey than Casey, who leads the NL with a .368 average.

"You look at the stats, he's leading the league in hitting,
isn't he?" Williams said. "It's like going from the frying pan
into the fire. You know what kind of player he (Griffey) is, and he
showed it."

Moreover, Griffey was 0-for-4 career against Dan Miceli (1-2)
with a pair of strikeouts.

While Williams was giving the sign to walk Casey, Griffey was
chatting with his uncle by the on-deck circle. He thought about the
tip and hit a grounder that hugged the line and turned the game.

"I think they were trying to get a force play and Griff came up
big for us," Casey said.

Jeff Bagwell had a sacrifice fly and a sixth-inning solo homer
that helped Houston pull ahead 4-2. The Astros' bullpen couldn't
hold the lead or keep Andy Pettitte's winning streak intact.

The left-hander had won all four starts since returning from a
sprained pitching elbow, suffered on a swing in his first outing.
He also had won his last six starts on the road.

A tough first inning -- 36 pitches and a throwing error by third
baseman Mike Lamb that led to two runs -- meant an early exit for
Pettitte, who gave up only four hits but walked four and struck out
nine.

"The walks in the first inning were unacceptable," Pettitte
said. "I felt uncomfortable and couldn't seem to get my rhythm. It
was very disappointing. I should never be walking four and striking
out nine. I'm a ground-ball pitcher."

Once Pettitte was gone, the game got away.

The Reds sent 10 to the plate in the sixth against Brandon Backe
and Miceli, piling up five hits and a pair of intentional walks.

Ryan Wagner (2-1) gave up a pinch RBI single to Morgan Ensberg
that made it 4-2 in the top of the sixth, but got the win. One day
after he became the Reds' career saves leader, Danny Graves got
three outs for his 19th save in 23 chances.

Pettitte and Todd Van Poppel struggled through a long first
inning that took its toll on a humid, 83-degree evening. Pettitte
lasted only five innings, giving up two runs -- one earned -- while
throwing a season-high 103 pitches.

Lamb threw away a potential inning-ending double play on
Griffey's grounder in the first, setting up both Cincinnati runs.

Van Poppel gave up Bagwell's sacrifice fly and Jeff Kent's
run-scoring groundout in the first, then settled down before fading
in the sixth. His red cap was soaked with sweat when Bagwell hit a
two-out tiebreaking homer.

Game notes
Bagwell's homer was his sixth of the season and 44th
overall in Cincinnati, his best total anywhere outside of Houston.
... Craig Biggio was out of the Astros' lineup, getting a day to
rest. He pinch-hit in the ninth and struck out. ... Orlando Palmeiro made his third start in center and opened the game with a single, snapping an 0-for-12 slump. ... Reds 3B Brandon Larson is expected to start a rehab assignment Saturday with Double-A
Louisville. Larson is on the 15-day DL with a torn muscle in his
left thigh. He's eligible to return Sunday. ... OF Adam Dunn struck
out three times against Pettitte, raising his NL-leading total to
49.