CINCINNATI (AP) -- Junior is taking his quest for No. 500 back on
the road, still aglow over three incredible days in his hometown.
Ken Griffey Jr. failed to get his milestone homer Thursday in
front of another capacity crowd, but the Cincinnati Reds pulled off
another late rally for a 4-3 victory and three-game sweep of the
Sean Casey had a pair of hits and a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in
the seventh, a consolation prize for a raucous crowd that saw
Griffey go 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly.
The Reds then headed for St. Louis, where Griffey will resume
his attempt to become the 20th player to reach the 500-homer mark.
The 34-year-old outfielder wanted badly to get it in his hometown,
which gave him three days of unforgettable ovations.
"You always want to try to hit that home run," he said. "I
just didn't do it this time. A lot of people will be watching in
Cincinnati in the next week. I'll still be thinking about the
response I've had the last three days."
He hadn't been so warmly received in his hometown since he
arrived in a February 2000 trade with Seattle, and he made sure
that fans knew how much he appreciated it.
When Griffey caught Eric Young's fly in centerfield to end the
game, he pointed to fans in left field, then the ones in right,
before running off the field.
"They've been real supportive through this whole thing,"
Griffey said. "It was just my way of saying thank you."
The crowd of 40,383 stood and screamed encouragement in each of
his at-bats. A city that watched him grow up wanted to share one of
his greatest moments.
Instead, he grounded out, flied out and had a routine sacrifice
fly off right-hander Ryan Drese (3-4). Down to his last chance, he
was way ahead on his final swing, striking out on a 76 mph pitch
from left-hander Brian Shouse in the seventh.
Drese had to rely on his sinker because nothing else was
working. He considered himself fortunate to get Griffey out.
"I threw him a cookie in his first at bat, and he hit a ground
ball to second," Drese said. "I don't know if he didn't expect me
to pitch him there or what."
Griffey's desire to reward the fans had a lot to do with it.
"To me, he looked like he was pressing at least twice today,"
said his father, Ken Griffey Sr., who was arranging to drive to St.
Louis after the game. "The biggest reason was that he wanted to do
it here, and he put a lot of unnecessary pressure on himself. I
told him, 'You've got all year to hit that one home run."
Griffey was in a jovial mood before the game, joking about how
travel-weary relatives were upset with him for prolonging the
drama. He then went out and tried too hard to end it.
"He put a lot of pressure on himself," said closer Danny
Graves, who pitched the ninth for his 27th save in 33 chances. "I
think he was a little out of his game. Even though he didn't hit
500, he did what he had to do to win the game.
"It'll come. It'll come when people least expect it."
Junior's failure to hit one out was the Reds' only
disappointment of a reviving series. They returned home at 5 a.m.
on Tuesday from an 0-7 road trip that knocked the Reds out of first
in the NL Central.
The Rangers lost their fourth in a row, matching their season
high, as the offense again relied solely on homers and the pitching
staff failed in the end. They hit six homers in the series, but
batted only .201 overall.
"All we could do was hit home runs," manager Buck Showalter
said. "It's not comfortable to feel like that's the way your
offense has to develop every night."
All three games came down to late Reds rallies.
Run-scoring singles by Ryan Freel and Barry Larkin tied it in
the seventh, and Casey followed with his sacrifice fly off Shouse.
Freel and Larkin led a decisive eighth inning rally for a 7-4 win
on Wednesday night.
Drese had a double and a single off Van Poppel for his first
Griffey went 3-for-11 with two walks and a sacrifice fly in
the series, which drew 115,998 fans. ... No one has hit his 500th
homer against the Rangers. Rafael Palmeiro hit No. 500 for them on
May 11 last year. ... C Rod Barajas was out of the Rangers' lineup
for a second consecutive game because of a swollen right thumb,
hurt in a home plate collision with Griffey in the series opener.
... The Rangers have homered in a season-high nine straight games.
... Drese had been 0-for-3 career as a hitter, all three at-bats
coming with Cleveland in 2002.