And he came through, hitting an infield single with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning to lift the Reds over the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 Saturday.
"I was talking with (Reds trainer) Mark Mann, and we were wondering what the longest time is between being drafted and playing for the team that drafted you," said Bako, who was drafted in 1993 then traded away by the Reds in November 1997. "It's nice to be here -- to be with the organization that you were drafted by. It's a lot of fun."
After playing for nine teams, Bako signed with the Reds as a free agent this offseason.
Right-hander Chad Durbin (0-1) walked Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion to start the inning. Ryan Freel pinch-ran for Dunn, and both runners moved up on pinch-hitter Norris Hopper's sacrifice. The Phillies then brought in their infield and outfield, and Bako hit a twisting bouncer that shortstop Jimmy Rollins backhanded, but couldn't get out of his glove in time to throw out Freel at home.
"Sometimes, it's better to hit it where they're not instead of hitting it hard," Bako said. "I'm glad it worked out there."
The Phillies were trying to pitch around Bako, a right-handed career .233 hitter entering the season, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said.
"Once it bounced, I knew Jimmy didn't have a play," Manuel said. "I felt like we let one get away. It looked like it was out of the strike zone, but he reached it."
"I thought I threw some good pitches," said Durbin, who started the ninth. "I just didn't do the job. I didn't want to throw him a strike. I was surprised he swung at it. I thought it was outside."
Francisco Cordero (1-0), signed by the Reds during the offseason as a free agent, pitched a perfect ninth for his first win since the Brewers beat St. Louis 1-0 on Sept. 20, 2006, at Milwaukee. He helped first-year manager Dusty Baker's team pick up its third win in four games.
"We executed," said Baker, who managed Bako with the Chicago Cubs in 2003 and 2004. "Got a couple of walks and a perfect bunt. In the first, we scored without getting a hit. To get on the board like that is tremendous. Boy, that was nice."
All three of the Reds' wins have been by one run.
"That's one of the things I stressed to the team," Baker said. "You've got to win one-run games, especially at home. If you want to win a championship, you've got to win one-run games."
Corey Patterson, who also played for Baker with the Cubs, tied it 3-all with home run into the Reds bullpen in left-center field with two outs in the of the eighth.
Patterson also walked to lead off the game and, after stealing second, moved to third on Jeff Keppinger's groundout, setting up Griffey's sacrifice fly.
"Patterson's talented," Baker said. "He's gifted. There are a lot of things he can do to help win ballgames."
"I like to think I'm a line drive hitter with occasional home runs," said Patterson, who's hit two homers in the first week of the season. "The home runs aren't always going to be there, so you have to try to get on any way you can. You have to be versatile."
Griffey hit two other flyballs to the warning track, including one to the deepest part of the ballpark in center field in the sixth inning, and finished 0-for-2 to remain seven home runs shy of 600 in his career.
- The Phillies activated RHP Brad Lidge from the 15-day disabled list and designated RHP Tim Lahey for assignment. Lidge had been on the disabled list after undergoing surgery Feb. 21 on his right knee. Lahey hadn't pitched for the Phillies after being claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs on March 28.
- Howard's 479-footshot to center tied Dunn for the sixth-longest home run at Great American Ball Park.
- Reds C Javier Valentin was available to pinch-hit and catch in an emergency after leaving Friday's game in the sixth inning with a strained left hamstring.
- Utley has scored 14 runs and driven in 14 in his last seven games against the Reds.