M's 3, Junior 2: Griffey caps return with 2 HRs
Finally, a game on Ken Griffey Jr. reunion weekend that let everyone go home happy. The 46,064 who came for one last chance to pay homage...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Finally, a game on Ken Griffey Jr. reunion weekend that let everyone go home happy.
The 46,064 who came for one last chance to pay homage to Griffey's 11 years in Seattle got what they wanted — two home runs, including a mammoth blast to right field that resembled so many he had hit here previously, as well as a spectacular catch that revived memories of his days as one of the best fielders around.
But the hometown team got what it wanted, as well — a come-from-behind 3-2 win and a series victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
"I'm glad everybody got a chance to see Junior go deep," said Mariner manager Mike Hargrove. "But I'm glad they didn't get a chance to see him hit three."
While Griffey was wowing fans once again with moon shots, the Mariners won it with small ball, using a bunt to set up Ben Broussard's two-run, game-tying double in the sixth, and three more bunts — including a suicide squeeze — to score the winning run in the seventh.
"The game just kind of dictated that," Hargrove said of Seattle's sudden propensity to bunt.
The Mariners made a tiny step back up the American League West standings, moving past slumping Oakland into second place, though still eight games behind the Los Angeles Angels.
Willie Bloomquist said the Mariners simply tried to look past the Griffey lovefest and focus on the task at hand.
"For us in a Mariner uniform, we were trying to get him out every time and win a series, and we did that," he said. "We kind of went about our jobs business-like and got it done."
Bloomquist, a Port Orchard native who understood the Griffey reaction as well as anyone in the Mariners' clubhouse, found himself at the center of the game's two most memorable plays.
On Griffey's first at-bat against Mariners starter Miguel Batista, he smashed a two-out, 2-0 pitch to left field, where Bloomquist gave chase.
Bloomquist leaped at the wall, and ball and glove arrived simultaneously, leading to a few confusing moments. Thinking Bloomquist had caught the ball, Griffey stopped at first base, before umpires finally signaled a home run.
"I couldn't have come any closer without catching it," Bloomquist said. "I was above the wall and it just tipped the last couple fingers of my glove. If I had another inch there, I think I could have reeled it in."
The Mariners would have needed the space shuttle to bring back Griffey's second homer, which came with two outs in the fifth. He blasted the first pitch from Batista off the UW Medicine sign in right field, a smash estimated at 428 feet. The 584th homer of his career moved him past Mark McGwire into seventh place on the all-time list.
Griffey said his success earlier in the game — he also had a bloop single in the third — "took all the pressure off. I wasn't trying to hit home runs like I was on Friday night. I was just trying to make a good swing."
Seattle was shut out through five, thanks in part to a diving catch of an Adrian Beltre blooper by Griffey in the second that turned into a double play.
But the Mariners broke through in the sixth when Broussard hit a 3-2 pitch with two outs and runners on second and third into the gap in left-center.
"I wasn't going to strike out there," Broussard said. "I was going to battle hard."
After Griffey struck out on three pitches against Eric O'Flaherty in the top of the seventh, the Mariners got the winning run in the bottom of the inning.
Yuniesky Betancourt — who had been slated for a day off until the lineup was shuffled when Jose Guillen was scratched due to arm tightness — led off with a double, taking the extra base after noticing that Adam Dunn was slow getting to the ball in left field. Jamie Burke then reached on a sacrifice bunt that sent Betancourt to third.
That brought up Bloomquist. On the first pitch, Hargrove called for the squeeze.
The play worked perfectly, with Bloomquist laying it down and Betancourt scooting home.
"It's an aggressive call," Betancourt said. "You just have to make sure you don't leave too early and give away the squeeze."
Said Bloomquist: "I was kind of expecting [the call], to be honest. You have to figure out a way to get it down in fair territory, and I was able to get a pitch I could handle."
The rally stalled from there, but the M's bullpen made the slim lead hold up. Griffey was left with the all-too-familiar feeling of having done everything he could do, yet walking off a Seattle field with a loss.
"Jay [Buhner] actually called today's game on Thursday night," Griffey said afterward. "He told me, 'With your luck, you're probably going to hit a couple of home runs and lose 3-2.' "
To everyone else, however, it felt just about perfect.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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