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Griffey returns in dramatic fashion with game-winning blast in 11th

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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CINCINNATI -- Not even Ken Griffey Jr. could believe this one.

The Cincinnati Reds center fielder hadn't played in a month because of a bad knee, and was only 1-for-5 when he received one last chance to make things turn out right Thursday night. With one against-the-odds swing, he did.

Griffey's three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning sent the Reds to a pulsating 5-4 victory over the Washington Nationals and reminded his teammates of what they have missed.

"Hopefully we can keep him healthy for the rest of the year," said starter Bronson Arroyo, who blanked the Nationals for eight innings before the game went its own wacky way.

The Reds rallied against one of the NL's most overworked bullpens to set up Griffey's decisive swing. Felipe Lopez had a run-scoring single in the 11th off Felix Rodriguez, who then walked Edwin Encarnacion with one out and the Nationals clinging to a 4-2 lead.

Griffey waited on-deck while Joey Eischen (0-1) jogged in from the bullpen and warmed up. A few thousand fans stood, wondering if the oft-injured outfielder was up to the dramatic moment.

They should have known.

After a called strike, Griffey connected on a 413-foot homer that brought his gleeful teammates hopping to home plate to celebrate. He dropped his head, pursed his lips and raised his arms while rounding the bases for the 539th time in his career.

"After you hit it, it's like cloud nine," Griffey said.

Then, he was mobbed at the plate and brought out for a curtain call by fans who stuck around on a cool, damp night to see the 36-year-old outfielder end the Reds' first extra-inning game of the season.

"It's awesome," Griffey said. "I don't get very many chances to hit a game-winning home run, and to do it in my first game back from all the abuse I've taken over the last couple of weeks "

Eischen, who hasn't saved a game since 2003, didn't want to discuss his two-pitch performance.

"If you're waiting for me, I have nothing to say," Eischen said, facing into his locker.

This one had plenty of wild turns.

Matt LeCroy tied it at 1-1 in the ninth with a shallow sacrifice fly for Washington, and Nick Johnson homered in the 11th to start a three-run rally for a 4-1 lead. Brian Shackelford (1-0) recorded the final out of the inning for Cincinnati, and the Nationals needed only to get through the bottom of the Reds' order to finish it off.

They couldn't.

"It's absolutely a waste for that game to get away from us," manager Frank Robinson said. "It kicks you right in the gut. It's one you don't forget about easily."

The Reds won't, either. The victory extended their first-place stay in the NL Central to 14 days, their longest in two years.

"You can't let a game like that slip away to have a big year," said Arroyo, who dominated while he was in the game.

Arroyo gave up six hits while shutting down one of the NL's least-productive lineups for the second consecutive time. The Nationals managed only one hit off him in eight scoreless innings on April 26.

The more NL batters see him, the less they seem to like him. Arroyo has faced three teams twice -- the Nationals, Cubs and Cardinals. In those second-look games, he is 2-0 and has given up only one earned run in 24 innings.

Arroyo received a standing ovation from the crowd of 15,771 when he left after the eighth inning. He wasn't the only one with a big cheering section.

Dozens of Zach Day's relatives and friends were bundled in the stands for his latest homecoming. The Nationals starter grew up in Cincinnati, where he was one of the city's top high school pitchers.

Day pitched impressively on the mound where he suffered one of his two painful moments last season. Griffey's line drive broke his right wrist during a relief appearance last May 23, although the tiny crack in the bone wasn't detected for eight days. Day also broke his thumb later in the season.

The right-hander kept up with Arroyo until the fifth, when Lopez singled with two outs, stole second and scored easily on Encarnacion's single to right. Day gave up seven hits in seven innings.

Notes

  • LeCroy made his sixth start behind the plate, replacing Brian Schneider, who left a game last Saturday with tightness in his left hamstring, and has started only one game since.
  • Reds manager Jerry Narron attended his daughter's graduation at North Carolina-Greensboro on Thursday. He flew back and made it to the dugout for the fifth inning, taking over for bench coach Bucky Dent.
  • Lopez's steal in the fifth inning was his 16th, topping his total from last season.
  • Arroyo lowered his ERA to 2.03.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Ken Griffey Jr.'s game-winning, three-run shot, which travels 413 feet, is his 539th career homer.  (AP)
Ken Griffey Jr.'s game-winning, three-run shot, which travels 413 feet, is his 539th career homer. (AP)

Players of the Game
Cincinnati

K. Griffey
AB 6
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
Washington

N. Johnson
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
 

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Washington Nationals
Marlon Byrd, CF6010043
Jose Vidro, 2B5030001
Nick Johnson, 1B4111103
Jose Guillen, RF5110015
Daryle Ward, LF4010010
    Damian Jackson, PR-SS0100000
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B5010012
Matt LeCroy, C4112011
Royce Clayton, SS3010011
   a- Alfonso Soriano, PH1000000
    Chad Cordero, P0000000
   b- Livan Hernandez, PH1011000
    Jon Rauch, P0000000
    Felix Rodriguez, P0000000
    Joey Eischen, P0000000
Zach Day, P1000010
   c- Marlon Anderson, PH1000000
    Gary Majewski, P0000000
    Ryan Church, LF2010000
Totals42412411016 
a-flied out for Clayton in the 9th
b-singled for C. Cordero in the 11th
c-flied out for Day in the 8th
Batting
HR - Nick Johnson (, White)
SF - Matt LeCroy ()
SH - Damian Jackson (), Zach Day ()
RBI - Nick Johnson (), Matt LeCroy 2 (), Livan Hernandez ()
2-OUT RBI - Matt LeCroy (), Livan Hernandez ()
SB - Damian Jackson (, 2nd base off Weathers/Ross)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Ryan Church 1
E - Ryan Zimmerman (, Wild throw)
Washington Nationals
Zach Day 7711130
Gary Majewski 1100110
Chad Cordero 2000320
Jon Rauch (H,) 0.1211000
Felix Rodriguez0122100
Joey Eischen (BS,; L,-)0111001
IBB - Ross by Zach Day, F. Lopez by Chad Cordero, by Hatteberg
Pitches-Strikes - Zach Day 105-58, Gary Majewski 24-11, Chad Cordero 46-22, Jon Rauch 12-9, Felix Rodriguez 16-10, Joey Eischen 2-2
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Zach Day 8-9, Gary Majewski 1-1, Chad Cordero 3-2
Batters Faced - Zach Day 28, Gary Majewski 5, Chad Cordero 10, Jon Rauch 2, Felix Rodriguez 2, Joey Eischen 1
Cincinnati Reds
Felipe Lopez, SS5231101
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B5121102
Ken Griffey Jr., CF6123012
Adam Dunn, LF4000012
    David Weathers, P0000000
    Todd Coffey, P0000000
   a- Quinton McCracken, PH0000100
    Rick White, P0000000
    Brian Shackelford, P0000000
Austin Kearns, RF4000110
Scott Hatteberg, 1B4010102
Brandon Phillips, 2B5020003
David Ross, C2000101
   b- Ray Olmedo, PH1110000
Bronson Arroyo, P3000033
    Ryan Freel, LF2010001
Totals4151256617 
a-walked for Coffey in the 10th
b-singled for Ross in the 11th
Batting
2B - Ken Griffey Jr. (, Majewski)
HR - Ken Griffey Jr. (, Eischen)
SH - David Ross ()
RBI - Felipe Lopez (), Edwin Encarnacion (), Ken Griffey Jr. 3 ()
2-OUT RBI - Edwin Encarnacion ()
SB - Felipe Lopez (, 2nd base off Day/LeCroy), Quinton McCracken (, 2nd base off C. Cordero/LeCroy), Brandon Phillips 3 (, 2nd base off Day/LeCroy, 2nd base off Day/LeCroy, 3rd base off Day/LeCroy)
Team LOB - 12
Fielding
E - Edwin Encarnacion (, wild throw)
Cincinnati Reds
Bronson Arroyo 8600180
David Weathers (BS,) 1111000
Todd Coffey 1000010
Rick White 0.2433001
Brian Shackelford (W,-) 0.1100010
Pitches-Strikes - Bronson Arroyo 117-77, David Weathers 14-9, Todd Coffey 13-7, Rick White 16-12, Brian Shackelford 8-6
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Bronson Arroyo 4-12, David Weathers 1-2, Todd Coffey 2-0, Rick White 1-1
Batters Faced - Bronson Arroyo 31, David Weathers 4, Todd Coffey 3, Rick White 6, Brian Shackelford 2
Game Information
Attendance - 15854
Game Time - 3:35
Temperature - 57
Umpires - Home - Randy Marsh, First Base - Angel Hernandez, Second Base - Hunter Wendelstedt, Third Base - Sam Holbrook