By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The story line for all three games of the Reds' brief homestand had the same three elements:
Ken Griffey Jr., shown here after hitting a sixth-inning popup, is holding at 499 career home runs after going homerless during the Reds' three-game sweep.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/MICHAEL E. KEATING
Ken Griffey Jr. didn't hit his historic home run.
But all the fans - there hoping to see Griffey make history - kept the ballpark on the river rocking.
And in the end, the Reds rallied to win.
Thursday, they beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 before 40,383 at Great American Ball Park to complete a three-game sweep behind a fine start from Todd Van Poppel, a three-run rally in the seventh inning and lights-out relief work.
As much as Griffey would have liked to hit homer No. 500, he and the club left for St. Louis very happy.
"The way we played the last three days was a lot of fun - and we got a sweep," Griffey said.
He was touched enough by the fans' support - 115,998 attended the series - that he gestured to folks in the outfield seats after making a catch for the final out.
"Just my way of saying thank you," Griffey said.
The series was a win-win-win situation for all in Redsland. Look at it this way: Griffey is going to hit 500; getting it in Cincinnati would have been nice.
But the Reds needed three wins a whole lot more.
If Griffey had homered in the series and the Reds had lost two or three games, the club would be facing the first-place Cardinals in a desperate situation.
As it is, they go into the series trailing St. Louis by two games. The Cardinals rallied to beat Oakland 5-4 Thursday.
Reds manager Dave Miley took a few hours' hiatus before he started to worry about St. Louis.
"I'm just happy with what we were able to do against the Texas Rangers," he said.
The Reds had come into the homestand on a seven-game losing streak and were playing miserably.
"It shows the character of this team to bounce back like we did," Van Poppel said. "We all pull for each other."
As with the first two wins over Texas, a lot of players contributed Thursday.
Van Poppel was able to go seven innings on a hot, sticky day after a shaky start.
He gave up a solo home run to Mark Teixeira in the second inning and a two-run shot to Hank Blalock in the third.
But he allowed only two hits over the next four innings.
"I was able to make good pitches late in the game," he said. "That allowed us to come back."
Van Poppel (3-2) recorded his first win in six starts.
The Reds didn't have a hit off Rangers starter Ryan Drese until first baseman Sean Casey's double in the fourth. It sent shortstop Barry Larkin, who had walked, to third.
Griffey, who had grounded out in his first at-bat, hit one well enough the opposite way to get Larkin in.
The Reds' big rally in the seventh was started by third baseman Tim Hummel.
He doubled with one out. Another role player, Jacob Cruz, followed with a pinch-hit single. Second baseman Ryan Freel hit a rocket to third that Blalock made a diving stop on, but Blalock unwisely threw to first base where he had no chance to get the speedy Freel. Hummel would have scored anyway, but Felipe Lopez (running for Cruz) ended up at third base and Freel at second when Blalock's throw went wild.
Larkin got one run in by slapping a single into left field to tie the score. Casey got in the game winner with a sacrifice fly.
"I keep saying it," Miley said. "But it's a different guy every day. These guys just go out and battle every day."
Hummel continues to surge past Brandon Larson on the depth chart at third base. Hummel made his fourth straight start and had his second straight three-hit game; he's hitting .308 overall.
"He basically hasn't done anything wrong," Miley said. "He's given us solid at-bats. He's played well defensively."
After the Reds got the lead, Todd Jones and Danny Graves closed out the game routinely.
Graves earned his 27th save, but it was his first in 12 games. He had blown two chances since his previous save.
The Reds just hope to take the home magic - they are 21-10 at Great American this season, the best home record in the National League - on the road.
"I told (bench coach) Jerry Narron to pick a few blades of grass and put them in his pocket," Miley said. "Maybe we can take that with us."
|Griffey Jr. cf||3||0||0||1||0||1||.259|
|Van Poppel p||1||0||0||0||0||0||.167|
E-Blalock (5). LOB-Texas 3, Cincinnati 8. 2B-Huckaby (1), Drese (1), Casey (24), Hummel (4). HR-Blalock (16), off Van Poppel; Teixeira (10), off Van Poppel. RBIs-Blalock 2 (45), Teixeira (25), Freel (11), Larkin (28), Casey (49), Griffey Jr. (51). CS-Dellucci (4). S-Van Poppel. SF-Casey, Griffey Jr..
|Drese L, 3-4||6 1/3||7||4||3||3||0||92||3.76|
IBB-off Drese (Dunn) 1. Umpires-Home, Tim Timmons; First, Bruce Froemming; Second, Mike Winters; Third, Hunter Wendelstedt. T-2:27. A-40,383 (42,271).
|Van Poppel W, 3-2||7||6||3||3||1||3||100||4.53|
|TJones H, 17||1||1||0||0||0||0||11||3.60|
|Graves S, 27||1||0||0||0||0||0||8||3.29|
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