Graves making quick transition from star reliever to starter

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2003

ST. LOUIS - Former closer Danny Graves proved he can be a dominating starter, too.

Graves threw a four-hitter for his first career complete game and Ken Griffey Jr. scored twice in his return to the starting lineup as the Cincinnati Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 Wednesday night.

''I just want to thank the people that have stuck with it,'' Graves said. ''Early in the year when I was struggling, people were questioning the move and wanting to know if I should do this or not.''

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Griffey made his first start since dislocating his right shoulder on April 5 and was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. He scored the Reds' fourth run on a sliding play at the plate in the sixth when catcher Mike Matheny couldn't handle the short hop on a throw from center fielder Jim Edmonds.

Griffey never had a thought about whether or not to slide.

''I slide left-handed,'' he said. ''Right shoulder goes up, left shoulder goes down. What's funny is my dad tried to break me of that growing up.

''He was always saying 'You want the ball to hit you in the back.'''

Manager Bob Boone said Tuesday that Griffey would not start two straight games for a while. But Griffey said he might play in the finale on Thursday.

''I don't know, we'll play it by ear,'' Griffey said. ''I'll come in tomorrow and do some work.''

Austin Kearns homered for the second straight game and had four RBIs for the Reds, who are 6-0 against the defending NL Central champions over the last two weeks.

The Reds have outscored the Cardinals 34-19 in those games. They've taken the first two games of a three-game series and swept a four-game set last week in Cincinnati. The Reds have won eight of nine overall.

''We've pitched awfully well against them,'' Boone said. ''They've got a dynamic hitting ballclub and you've got to make pitches all night long.''

The Cardinals have lost eight of nine and fell below .500 for the first time since they were 11-12 on April 27.

''We've got to play through it,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ''That's the only answer. That's my speech.''

Kearns hit his 13th homer to tie Adam Dunn for the team lead, a three-run shot off Matt Morris (4-3) in the fourth for the game's first runs. Kearns added an RBI single in the sixth. He now has a team-high 35 RBIs.

He's 13-for-38 during a 10-game hitting streak with four homers and 14 RBIs.

The Cardinals got only two runners in scoring position against Graves (3-2), who struck out one and walked one in beating St. Louis for the second straight start. St. Louis' biggest threat came in the sixth when Fernando Vina and Eduardo Perez singled with one out to put runners at first and third, but Edmonds flied out to the center field wall for the third out.

In the ninth inning the Cardinals went in order for the former closer.

''It was weird being out there in the ninth,'' Graves said. ''I didn't think I'd be out there for a long time.''

The Reds have won Graves' last five starts and he's 3-0 in that stretch, including a 4-2 victory over St. Louis on May 7 in Cincinnati. He has established career bests for innings in each of his last four outings, including 7 2-3 innings against the Cardinals in his last outing.

Morris allowed four runs on five hits in six innings with four strikeouts and one walk. Before Wednesday, he had won three straight starts and had allowed only 12 earned runs in his previous seven outings.

''Today he was just a little bit better than I was,'' Morris said. ''We know maybe down the stretch run that this is a team we're going to have to beat, and it gives them confidence come September if they're going to be in it.''

Notes: The Reds lead the NL with 62 homers. … Cincinnati has won five of its last seven on the road. … Scott Rolen singled in three at-bats and is 12-for-28 during an eight-game hitting streak with three homers. … Tino Martinez, bumped from sixth to seventh in the order for the first time all season, has nine RBIs on the year and none since April 26. … Edmonds is in a 3-for-31 slump. … The Cardinals are 10-for-62 with runners in scoring position the last eight games. … Reds SS Barry Larkin did not play after reinjuring his left calf Tuesday night.