Saturday, August 24, 2002
Astros 6, Reds 4
Griffey's return can't stop Reds from falling under .500
By John Fay firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HOUSTON - Ken Griffey Jr.'s return got the Reds offense going a bit, but not enough. The Reds lost to the Houston Astros 6-4 in the opener of the three-game series before a crowd of 37,469 at Minute Maid Field Friday night.
Barry Larkin looks at the plate after being called out on strikes in the sixth inning.
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Despite Griffey's 4-for-4 with a home run and two RBI, the Reds dropped below .500 (63-64) for the first time since they were 3-4 on April 8 - the eighth day of the season.
If this were a political election, Reds manager Bob Boone would be delivering a concession speech.
The loss left the Reds 4 1/2 games behind the second-place Astros and 8 1/2 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, who lost a 14-inning, 5-4 decision to Philadelphia.
The Reds have lost nine of their last 11.
They are 19-41 (.316) versus teams with records over .500. They are 5-10 against Houston this year.
Shawn Estes, the left-hander obtained from the New York Mets Aug.15, made his second start for the Reds. It wasn't as good as the first. Estes went five innings, allowing six runs on seven hits. His real problem was control.
Shawn Estes reacts to walking Houston pitcher Pete Munro with the bases loaded in the second inning.
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He walked five, including four in the four-run second.
I'm really disappointed in myself, Estes said. We needed a win tonight, and I didn't get it. The offense battled. But I didn't make pitches when I had to. I'm just disappointed.
Griffey returned to the starting lineup after missing six starts with a quadriceps/hip flexor strain. He got the Reds on the board with a line-drive home run to right field in the first inning. It was Griffey's seventh home run of the year and second in three plate appearances.
You saw the way he swung, manager Bob Boone said. That's the difference when he has his legs.
The Reds' lack of situational hitting hurt them also.
The Reds wasted two leadoff doubles - Griffey's in the fourth and Sean Casey's in the sixth. If the next batter had advanced them to third, they would have scored.
But Austin Kearns grounded to short in the fourth, and Barry Larkin struck out in the sixth.
RF Orlando Merced scales the wall but can't reach Ken Griffey Jr.'s homer in the first inning.
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It came down to us not getting two runners over, Boone said.
Estes, who had worked a routine first, suddenly lost control in the second. He walked four in the inning, including pitcher Pete Munro to force in a run. Two hits followed the walks to make it a 4-1 game.
If you ever wanted a Mulligan in baseball, the second inning was it for me, Estes said. Like a do-over, but you don't get those.
Estes was just a little off. It wasn't like he was crazy wild, Boone said.
He was right around the zone, catcher Jason LaRue said.
The Reds put together a rally in the fifth to tie it. Reggie Taylor and LaRue led off with singles. Estes sacrificed LaRue to second. Todd Walker followed with a ground ball to Adam Everett, scoring Taylor.
Aaron Boone got Walker in with a double to left, and Griffey followed with his third hit to drive in Boone to tie it 4-4. That gave Griffey six RBI in his last five at-bats.
Griffey singles in the eighth.
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The Astros took the lead back in their half of the fifth. Jeff Bagwell led off with a double. Estes got the next two batters and thought he had Brad Ausmus on a called strike three. But home plate umpire Kevin Kelley called it a ball.
It proved to be a huge call because Ausmus hit the next pitch for a double. Everett followed with another double to make it 6-4.
Estes let Kelley know how he felt about the call as he walked off the field after the inning. But Estes didn't use that as an excuse.
I had a chance to get out of there without any damage, he said.
That would have given us a chance to win. Ausmus hit a good pitch.
Adam Dunn broke an 0-for-27 hitless streak with a single in the ninth inning.
Astros 6, Reds 4|
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Harmony Community 42, Lockland 0
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