CINCINNATI -- The Rangers know Ken Griffey Jr. can inflict some damage. There was a time, long before Vladimir Guerrero, when he was the Rangers' chief nemesis, back when he was still playing for the Seattle Mariners. As Rangers starter Jamey Wright said, "I don't think I'm the first pitcher he's hit two home runs off of in a game."
The home run that bothered the Rangers was delivered buy a guy who was still hitting just .196 even after the Cincinnati Reds had held on to an 8-4 victory on a Friday night at Great American Ball Park. The Reds hit five home runs on the night, but the one that really hurt was a three-run home run by catcher David Ross in the bottom of the sixth inning off Rangers reliever Frank Francisco. "That definitely killed us," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Frankie just had a bad inning. He's been good for us. He's only human. I just wish he had stayed inhuman for that one inning." Francisco was on in relief of Wright, who returned to the mound for the first time since April 10. Coming off the 60-day disabled list, Wright gave up four runs in five innings, and all were on home runs. Griffey hit two of them and Adam Dunn hit the other. "I'm happy with the way my arm felt," said Wright, who was sidelined with shoulder inflammation. "But I was fighting myself a little bit trying to find my command and find my rhythm. My sinker was pretty good, but some of my other pitches need to be worked on between starts." Griffey and Dunn hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning to give the Reds a 2-0 lead. Griffey then got a hold of a low fastball and belted a two-run home run in the third inning to make it a 4-0 game. Griffey now has 32 home runs in his career against the Rangers, eighth most by an opponent. It was his first against them June 27, 1999. "He hit two tonight and they were both down," Washington said. "The second one was almost on the ground. He can still swing the bat." Rangers rookie third baseman Travis Metcalf didn't do too badly either and he almost single-handedly pulled his team back in the game. He led off the fifth inning with a double off of Reds starter Aaron Harang and scored the Rangers first run, then hit a two-run double in the sixth that made it a 4-3 game. That's not a bad position considering the Reds bullpen has the second highest relief ERA in the National League. "I'm not singling any team out," Washington said. "I figure we got a chance against anybody in the sixth or seventh inning if we're only down one run."
But Francisco couldn't keep it close.Instead, Josh Hamilton singled to right to lead off the inning and went to third when Alex Gonzalez blooped a double down the right field line, a ball that just hit fair and then spun into the stands along the foul line. That brought up Ross, and Francisco got two strikes on him. But he went with a 2-2 curve ball -- his third-best pitch -- trying to get the big strikeout. Instead, Ross crushed it into the seats in left for a three-run home run. "I felt good," Francisco said. "I thought I could get him out with my other stuff, but I hung my curve ball and he took advantage." Francisco later struck out Brandon Phillips with the curve ball and catcher Gerald Laird said, "If he had thrown Ross the same breaking ball he threw Phillips, he would have been out. But he made a mistake and paid for it." Ross also went deep off of Willie Eyre in the eighth inning for his sixth career multi-home run game. Griffey has done it 54 times and now has 581 home runs in his career. Sammy Sosa remained at 599 after going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. The big at-bat though was in the fifth, when he batted with the bases loaded, two outs and the Rangers trailing, 4-1. Harang fell behind, 2-1, and then tried to come inside. The pitch missed badly, but instead of being ball three or even hitting Sosa, it caught the bottom of the bat for a foul ball. That made it 2-2, and Sosa ended up grounding out to second base. "I think in any situation when you get your fourth hitter up there, you're going to try to bear down, especially with runners on," Harang said. "He's been doing it so long, and he's so good at it, you just have to make sure you execute your pitches and don't make a mistake with him, because he can certainly make you pay for it." Both Griffey and Sosa have been doing it a long time. But it was a home run by a No. 8 hitter that got to the Rangers on Saturday.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.