Ken Griffey Jr. has his biggest game of the season as Mariners beat the Yankees, 7-1
Griffey hits his 627th career homer and finishes with four runs batted in.
Seattle Times staff reporter
M's next five games
Tuesday | @ Tampa Bay, 4:08 p.m., FSN | Rowland-Smith (4-3, 3.59) vs. Niemann (12-6, 3.80)
Wednesday | @ Tampa Bay, 4:08 p.m., FSN | Morrow (1-4, 5.08) vs. Sonnanstine (6-9, 6.82)
Thursday | @ Toronto, 4:07 p.m., FSN | Hernandez (16-5, 2.45) vs. Romero (12-8, 4.22)
Friday | @ Toronto, 4:07 p.m., FSN | Fister (2-2, 3.53) vs. Halladay (15-10, 3.01)
Saturday | @ Toronto, 10:07 a.m., FSN | Snell (5-2, 4.53) vs. Purcey (0-2, 6.32)
If these are indeed the waning days of Ken Griffey Jr. in a Mariners' uniform, he's not saying. No matter how many times, or ways, he's asked.
"I like how you change the phrases and try to trick me," he said playfully to reporters as he parried questions about his future on Sunday.
Griffey had just turned back the clock with a vintage power display as the Mariners staved off a playoff-clinching celebration by the Yankees with a 7-1 victory at Safeco Field.
Griffey's most productive game of 2009 included a run-scoring double in the first and a three-run home run in the second — his 16th homer of the season, and 627th of his illustrious career.
Will that career, or at least the Seattle portion of it, end on Oct. 4, when the Mariners season closes out against Texas?
Griffey continues to say he'll hold off on an announcement until after the final game.
"We still have (12) games left. We'll figure that out," he said. "Right now, we have things to do, and that's win games. At the end of the year, we'll decide, and that's it."
Griffey shot down any notion that he would make an announcement before the final homestand, which begins on Sept. 29 against Oakland.
"No. Because we still have games to play. That's the most important thing," he said.
For those searching for signs, there was the fact that Griffey brought out the Mariners' lineup card to the umpires before the game. But don't read anything into that, he warned.
"Now, if I hit a home run and start tipping my hat like Babe Ruth, then you know," he laughed.
There was no such reaction, however, when Griffey reached Yankees' starter Joba Chamberlain for a three-run blast on a 1-2 pitch in the second. That made Chamberlain the 405th different pitcher to be victimized by Griffey, who turns 40 in November.
"When he hits a ball like he did today, you don't see age," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "That's a beautiful swing. Watch his batting practice, and you see tremendous leverage. He still gives you a great at-bat."
Griffey's most demonstrative emotional display came after the game, when he and Mike Sweeney double-teamed rookie catcher Adam Moore. They simultaneously hit Moore with ice cream in the face as he did a postgame interview. Moore had delivered his first career hit, a single to center off Chamberlain, in the second inning.
"That's something I'll never forget, having Griffey and Sweeney doing it, two veterans that they are, tag-teaming me," Moore said. "It was a lot of fun having those two guys doing it to me."
Moore got his second career start because of injuries to both Kenji Johjima (bruised knee) and Rob Johnson (sprained ankle), and was credited by Wakamatsu with "a phenomenal job. That's two games we've seen him now, and for a young kid, he did a great job of handling the pitching today."
That was echoed by Mariners starter Ian Snell, who credited Moore with settling him down early in the game when the Yankees were threatening early.
"He seemed like a veteran out there, like he's been doing it while," Snell said. "He was very calm. He came out and said, 'Let's go, let's get these guys.' I made some pitches and got out of the inning."
Said Young: "That's just what I take pride in. I kept reminding him, you have great stuff. Keep competing, and keep missing down."
Snell, who had gotten battered for nine hits and eight runs in six innings against the Yankees in an 11-1 Seattle loss on Aug. 13, fared better this time. In 5-1/3 innings, Snell gave up four hits and one run while walking four, raising his record to 5-2 in 10 starts for the Mariners.
"It's a great stepping stone to really believe that if he makes his pitches, he can beat some awfully good offenses," Wakamatsu said.
The Mariners were blanked on one hit over the final five innings by Yankees' reliever Sergio Mitre. Meanwhile, M's relievers Garrett Olson, Mark Lowe and Aardsma shut out the Yankees on one hit over the final 3-2/3 innings.
The Mariners now have 78 wins and need to win just four of their final 12 to follow last year's 101-loss season with a winning record.
"From last year to this year, you can't say enough for what guys have done, from upstairs to down here, to change what happened last year," Griffey said.
A Yankee victory, coupled with Texas's loss on Sunday, would have wrapped up at least a wild-card berth for the Yankees. But instead, the Mariners won their third straight series following a five-game losing streak.
Asked if he was feeling any special emotions as the season wound down, Griffey coyly resisted one last attempt to glean a hint of his future.
"I'm going to Disney World," he said. "I've always wanted to say it, and I finally did."
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com.
For the record
v. AL West: 26-25
vs. L.A.: 9-9
vs. Oak.: 11-5
vs. Texas: 6-11
vs. AL East: 19-15
v. AL Cen.: 22-25
vs. NL: 11-7
vs. LHP: 26-28
vs. RHP: 52-44
Extra inn.: 9-6
Sunday's crowd: 35,885
Season total: 2,058,874
Biggest crowd: 45,958 (April 14)
Smallest crowd: 16,002 (May 19)
Average (75 dates): 27,452
2008 average (75 dates): 29,349
UPDATE - 8:27 PM
Catcher Gregg Zaun retires after 16 seasons
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.