Uncle Freddy helps Griffey

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2004

CINCINNATI - Jimy Williams didn't know about Uncle Freddie's phone call.

The Houston Astros manager decided to pitch to slumping Ken Griffey Jr. with the game on the line Friday, and paid for it. Griffey's slump-busting double sent the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-4 victory that turned on a phone call.

Before Griffey came to bat with the score tied and two outs in the sixth, Ken Griffey Sr. relayed a batting tip to his son through a relative sitting in the front row.

Email newsletter signup

Uncle Freddie passed it along, and Griffey immediately put it to use.

''He said I wasn't using my hands,'' he said.

The double just inside first base snapped a 4-all tie and a personal 0-for-13 skid, sending the Reds to their sixth victory in seven games. Cincinnati has surged into a second-place tie with Chicago in the NL Central, a game behind the Astros.

Austin Kearns followed with a two-run single, but it was the decision to face Griffey - and the unusual batting tip he received - that turned the game.

''With first base open, you've got a couple of options and you go with the percentages,'' Griffey said.

That's exactly what Williams did.

Sean Casey already had two hits when he came to bat with Barry Larkin on second and two outs in the sixth. Williams preferred facing Griffey than Casey, who leads the NL with a .368 average.

''You look at the stats, he's leading the league in hitting, isn't he?'' Williams said. ''It's like going from the frying pan into the fire. You know what kind of player he (Griffey) is, and he showed it.''

Moreover, Griffey was 0-for-4 career against Dan Miceli (1-2) with a pair of strikeouts.

While Williams was giving the sign to walk Casey, Griffey was chatting with his uncle by the on-deck circle. He thought about the tip and hit a grounder that hugged the line and turned the game.

''I think they were trying to get a force play and Griff came up big for us,'' Casey said.

Jeff Bagwell had a sacrifice fly and a sixth-inning solo homer that helped Houston pull ahead 4-2. The Astros' bullpen couldn't hold the lead or keep Andy Pettitte's winning streak intact.

The left-hander had won all four starts since returning from a sprained pitching elbow, suffered on a swing in his first outing. He also had won his last six starts on the road.

A tough first inning - 36 pitches and a throwing error by third baseman Mike Lamb that led to two runs - meant an early exit for Pettitte, who gave up only four hits but walked four and struck out nine.

''The walks in the first inning were unacceptable,'' Pettitte said. ''I felt uncomfortable and couldn't seem to get my rhythm. It was very disappointing. I should never be walking four and striking out nine. I'm a ground-ball pitcher.''

Once Pettitte was gone, the game got away.

The Reds sent 10 to the plate in the sixth against Brandon Backe and Miceli, piling up five hits and a pair of intentional walks.

Ryan Wagner (2-1) gave up a pinch RBI single to Morgan Ensberg that made it 4-2 in the top of the sixth, but got the win. One day after he became the Reds' career saves leader, Danny Graves got three outs for his 19th save in 23 chances.

Pettitte and Todd Van Poppel struggled through a long first inning that took its toll on a humid, 83-degree evening. Pettitte lasted only five innings, giving up two runs - one earned - while throwing a season-high 103 pitches.

Lamb threw away a potential inning-ending double play on Griffey's grounder in the first, setting up both Cincinnati runs.

Van Poppel gave up Bagwell's sacrifice fly and Jeff Kent's run-scoring groundout in the first, then settled down before fading in the sixth. His red cap was soaked with sweat when Bagwell hit a two-out tiebreaking homer.