Saturday, July 29, 2000
Reds 8, Expos 3
Griffey's slam helps Dessens win his fourth straight start
By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MONTREAL Here, a place called the McCorr Museum is featuring an exhibit that traces this city's baseball history, including relics from Jackie Robinson's minor-league days and the occasionally vivid life of Les Expos. That noted curator of clout, Ken Griffey Jr., added a fresh item to the collection Friday night, though it was slightly dented.
Ken Griffey Jr. watches his second-inning grand slam.
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Griffey made his first visit to Olympic Stadium a memorable one by lifting a second-inning grand slam over the center-field wall, helping the Reds cruise to an 8-3 victory over the Montreal Expos.
The Reds (51-51), who stand at .500 for the sixth time in 17 days, moved a little forward on their treadmill. They trimmed St. Louis' lead in the National League Central Division to six games and remained 61/2 behind the New York Mets in the wild-card standings.
Like many of Griffey's home runs, this one came laced with history. It was his 14th career grand slam, tying him for ninth on the all-time list with Gil Hodges and New York Mets third baseman Robin Ventura. Immediately ahead are Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Dave Kingman in a sixth-place tie with 16. Lou Gehrig, the all-time leader, had 23.
Eddie Taubensee tags out Montreal's Chris Widger in a fifth-inning rundown.
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Asked if he cared about such numbers, Griffey said, No. Except Ws (victories). That's you guys' statistics "He passed this person.' I don't go up there thinking, "Well, if I hit a home run I have a chance to ... ' The biggest thing is to make the job easier for the guy behind me.
Griffey exacted a measure of revenge against Expos starter Mike Johnson (5-5), who struck him out twice while defeating the Reds in a May 31 emergency start at Cinergy Field. The center fielder's blast combined with Sean Casey's two-run, first-inning double to give the Reds a 6-0 lead.
Elmer Dessens (5-0) won his fourth consecutive start, limiting Montreal to three runs and seven hits in seven innings. The right-hander issued one walk while throwing 60 strikes in 91 pitches.
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He goes after guys and makes quality pitches, even out of the strike zone, Griffey said.
It's a strange thing to say about a pitcher who was unwanted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and began the season in Triple-A, but Dessens has been a clutch performer. The Reds are 5-0 in his starts. Four of his victories, one of which came in relief, followed Cincinnati defeats.
He seems to be the guy who picks us right up, Reds manager Jack McKeon said. Hopefully he can keep that going.
The Reds feel the same way about Griffey, who extended his team-high produc tion figures to 32 homers and 89 RBI.
He's not hitting to his capabilities according to him and (bench coach Ken Griffey) Senior but from what I've seen, he's doing it, left fielder Dmitri Young said. People like to look at his average more than home runs and ribbies (RBI), but he's among the leaders in both. He's going to be here the next nine years, so people should expect nine years worth of 40-plus homers, 120-something ribbies and averaging .280 to three-whatever. Like the old saying goes, people don't remember how you begin, it's how you finish.
Griffey provided an instant keepsake for the intimate gathering of 11,547 the smallest road crowd to see Cincinnati play this year. He did so by his mere presence, prompting surprisingly warm applause before his first at-bat. It contrasted sharply with the unfriendly receptions he has received in almost every other city.
That was nice, Griffey said. It says a lot about the people here.
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