Evening of ‘firsts’ for Reds, Griffey

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 7, 2000

The Associated Press

Junior got his first hit for his hometown team, a run-scoring single in the first inning Thursday night.

Friday, April 07, 2000

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Junior got his first hit for his hometown team, a run-scoring single in the first inning Thursday night. Once he put them again, the Reds held on for their first win of the season, 5-1 over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Michael Tucker and Aaron Boone homered and Ron Villone (1-0) made two saving defensive plays, but the loudest and longest cheer was for a soft line drive.

Griffey got a standing ovation from the crowd of 20,909 when he slapped a 3-2 pitch from Jaime Navarro (0-1) toward left-center – the same area of turf where Pete Rose’s record-setting hit No. 4,192 plopped down 15 years ago.

”I’m just trying to get adapted,” said Griffey, who had faced unfamiliar NL pitchers until Thursday night. ”The last time I hit in this ballpark, I was a senior in high school. That was 13 years ago.”

The single scored Pokey Reese from third with the Reds’ first run and ended Griffey’s 0-for-10 introduction to the National League. Griffey motioned for the umpires to save the ball when he got to first.

That alone was noteworthy. There’s a short list of commemorative baseballs that Griffey has kept: first hit; homers No. 1, 100, 200, 300, 350; his 56th homer in 1997.

”I don’t hold onto a whole bunch of things,” he said.

Junior didn’t do anything else after that at the plate. With the Brewers in their Griffey shift, he grounded out twice to second baseman Ron Belliard and struck out, leaving him 1-for-14.

His slump ended against a pitcher who’s had trouble getting him out throughout his career. Griffey is 22-for-52 (.423) career off Navarro with three homers.

Although Griffey didn’t go deep off the right-hander, Tucker and Boone did as the Reds pulled ahead 5-0 and knocked Navarro out of the game after four innings.

”I tried to keep the ball down today,” said Navarro, who bounced a few pitches in front of the plate. ”I didn’t get a few calls, but there’s nothing you can do.

”I made a couple of mistakes. The pitch to Griffey was a good pitch, low and away.”

Tucker hit a solo homer in the second and Boone ended his 0-for-11 slump with a two-run shot in the fourth off a hanging slider that was right down the middle.

”I hope we can get back into things being a little more normal,” Boone said. ”There’s a little extra adrenalin at the start of the season. It’s good to get those first things out of the way.”

Navarro, who returned to the Brewers in a four-player deal Jan. 12, gave up six hits and two walks in four innings.

Villone had problems early but saved himself and some runs with a pair of nice defensive plays.

on comeback grounders.

With runners on second and third in the first inning, Villone jumped, stretched and caught Geoff Jenkins’ hard-hit grounder, then threw to first to end the inning.

The same thing happened in the third inning with a runner on third and two out. This time, Villone reached and grabbed Charlie Hayes’ one-hop comebacker to end the inning.

”He has as good of stuff as anybody,” Brewers manager Davey Lopes said. ”He changed speeds and had a sneaky fastball and he’s a good athlete. You can tell that by the plays he made.”

Villone gave up one run on seven hits in 5 2-3 innings, throwing 107 pitches. He also got an assist from Griffey, who ran down Sean Berry’s fly ball at the edge of the warning track in right-center in the fifth inning, catching it with his right arm extended across his body.

”It looks kind of routine after watching him in spring training,” Villone said. ”He puts his head down and gets there and looks natural doing it. I don’t know how he does it. I wish I could.”

<B>Notes:<B> The Brewers were trying for their first opening three-game sweep on the road since 1986. … Navarro pitched for Milwaukee from 1990-94, before going to the Cubs and White Sox. He’s 62-60 career with the Brewers, 116-121 in the majors. … The Reds’ July 8 game against Cleveland became a sellout Thursday. It’s the only game beside the season opener that has sold out. … Reese had two more hits, leaving him 8-for-14. … Reds first baseman Sean Casey, disabled by a broken right thumb, had a removable splint instead of a cast Thursday. He hasn’t shaved since the injury Saturday because he’s right-handed and doesn’t trust himself with a razor in the other hand.