Sunday, June 04, 2000

Reds 9, Twins 3

Reds take cue from Big Red Machine

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Barry Larkin is greeted by Ken Griffey Jr. after Pokey Reese after his first-inning HR.
(Jeff Swinger photos)
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        On a night devoted to celebrating the Reds' past, the club showed that its present also looked quite promising.

        The Reds gave their 1975 World Champion forebears, who were honored before Saturday's game, much to admire. Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey Jr. and Dante Bichette each homered to support Denny Neagle, helping Cincinnati secure a 9-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins before 45,617 at Cinergy Field.

        Cincinnati (30-24) assured itself of ending its streak of consecutive series defeats at two, entering today's series finale. The Reds began the day trailing National League Central Division leader St.Louis by 11/2 games.

        But the standings weren't a concern on this evening. The sight of the franchise's greatest players, who formed what might have been the finest team ever, thrilled the contemporary Reds as they stood in their dugout to watch the salute to the '75 club.

        “I think it motivated us a little bit,” said Bichette, who collaborated with Griffey on back-to-back homers in the fifth inning off Twins starter Sean Bergman (3-4). “That '75 club was the ultimate.”

Griffey broke an 0-for-18 string with a fifth-inning HR.
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        “I was getting goosebumps to see that many guys together at one time, plus to see the reaction of the fans,” Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee said. “It was incredible to hear their legacy. No team can be compared to that — no Reds team, unless you do something.”

        Larkin, whose Queen City heritage gave him a special appreciation for the Reds' history, knew best how to sustain the emotion generated by the pregame ceremo ny.

        First, he placed a rose on third base as he took his position before the game to salute absent Big Red Machine star Pete Rose.

        “We just felt it was right to represent him in some capacity,” said Larkin, explaining that the gesture was a team decision. “It just showed respect for what Pete Rose has done. ... He's the ultimate team player. It's a shame he couldn't be here. But he was here in spirit. I think everybody felt he should've been here ...

        “I kept waiting for the helicopter to come and lower Pete into the stadium.”

        Then Larkin belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning to open the scoring.

Bichette is greeted by Ron Oester after his HR.
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        Minnesota forged ahead, 3-2, scoring all of its runs off Neagle (5-0) in the second and third innings. “He was off and on throughout the game — fighting himself, trying to find a groove he couldn't get,” Taubensee said of the left-hander, who walked four in seven innings but allowed just four hits. Neagle won his 11th decision in a row (dating to August) and ended his streak of four consecutive no-decisions.

        A three-run fourth inning put the Reds ahead to stay. After Bergman issued three walks to load the bases with two outs, Neagle tied the score with an infield single before Pokey Reese, who interrupted a 3-for-22 slump by going 2-for-4, singled up the middle to score Aaron Boone and Taubensee.

        Cincinnati maintained the pressure with Griffey's opposite-field homer to left, snapping skids of 0-for-18 and 4-for-43. Bichette connected on the very next pitch, completing the Reds' third set of back-to-back homers this year and the first involving their prize offseason acquisitions.

        “We're not the '75 Big Red Machine,” Bichette said. “But if we've ever played like them, tonight we did.”

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