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Griffey Surges To Dinger No. 44


Ken Griffey Jr. has been unusually quiet at the plate and the Seattle Mariners' bullpen has been unusually effective the last few weeks. They were in their old form Monday.

Griffey hit his AL-leading 44th home run and the Mariners survived rocky relief pitching to complete a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox with an 11-10 victory.

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    Forum: Will Griffey break the record for most career home runs?

  • "That was a wild one, wasn't it?" said Seattle manager Lou Piniella, who saw three relievers give back seven runs over the last two innings.

    Seattle starter Ken Cloude (8-9) left after seven innings with a 9-3 lead. But Bob Wells, Jose Paniagua and Mike Timlin conspired to give back three runs in the eighth.

    The Mariners seemed to receive two insurance runs in the eighth when Chicago reliever Jaime Navarro threw back-to-back run-scoring wild pitches to make it 11-6.

    But Timlin loaded the bases on three singles -- two that never left the infield -- with no outs. Robin Ventura followed with his 10th career grand slam to pull the White Sox within one.

    "You've got to keep scrapping and hopefully you get some breaks," Ventura said. "I don't try and do that. It just happens. That is what I call luck."

    Rotten luck, if you ask Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez after the inning was set up by two high turf-bounce singles..

    "I didn't know what to make of it (the inning)," Rodriguez said. "It's not like they hit any screamers. It was just frustrating."

    Frustrating on the field, and torturous for Cloude on the bench

    "You tell yourself not to think that way (about blowing a game), but the way the season has gone it's not out of the realm of possibilities," said Cloude. "You don't like to sweat it out like that, but sometimes it happens."

    Greg Norton then singled and was sacrificed to second before Timlin recorded the last two outs for his 12th save.

    "He's my closer," said Piniella of the decision to stay with Timlin. "He was just trying to make it interesting.

    "Today was a weird game in a lot of ways. But, look, we put up a lot of runs and it was more than we gave up. We came out on top and that's all that matters."

    Griffey, who also had an RBI double, is showing signs of snapping out of his prolonged power drought, which saw him hit only one home run in 87 at-bats before Sunday.

    Mark McGwire of St. Louis leads the majors with 53 homers, eight short of Roger Maris' record. Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs is second with 51.

    Despite the slump, Griffey still has more homers at this point in the season than he did last year, when he had 40 on his way to a career-high 56.

    Griffey came up in the fourth inning with two outs and runners at first and third. He pulled the first pitch from Mike Sirotka (12-12) down the right-field line to give the Mariners an 8-1 lead.

    Sirotka then walked Edgar Martinez, who began the seven-run inning with a go-ahead solo homer, and was taken out. Sirotka gave up eight runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

    Griffey added an RBI double in the sixth and left in the seventh, helping send Chicago to its sixth straight loss. All of the Mariners' wins in the series were by one run.

    "We're just trying to work on these one-run games, try to improve the margin a little bit," said Piniella, whose club has doubled its total of one-run wins from four to eight in four days. The 162-game record low for one-run wins is 11 by the 1985 Rangers.

    "This is a year of firsts in a lot of ways for us," Piniella said.

    It was a day of role-reversal for Sirotka and Ken Cloude, who opposed each other Aug. 14 in Chicago. On that day, Cloude gave up eight runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 14-2 defeat.

    This time Cloude (8-9) allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings, striking out 10 and walking three.

    "Kenny was the real story," said Rodriguez. "He's one of my favorite pitchers because he gives you 100 percent day in and day out."

    Cloude didn't allow a hit until Frank Thomas's two-out triple in the fourth. Albert Belle followed with another triple, tying the score at 1.

    Magglio Ordonez connected off Cloude in the seventh for a two-run homer, making it 9-3.

    "The bullpen let us down a little bit, continuing to give up runs instead of holding them and giving us the opportunities," said Chicago manager Jerry Manuel.

    Notes

  • Of Griffey's 44 home runs this season, only two have been three-run homers. With 338 career homers, he tied Don aylor for 58th on the career list. Dave Parker and Boog Powell are next at 339.
  • Belle's triple was his 77th extra-base hit of the season, tying Thomas' team record, set in 1993.
  • Thomas went 5-for-30 on the road trip with three solo homers and a triple.
  • Seattle, which leads the majors with 193 homers, is finally .500 (49-49) when going deep.
  • Seattle catcher Dan Wilson, on the DL since July 20 (torn ankle ligaments) said he expects to play on the team's upcoming nine-game road trip.
  • The Mariners were 7-4 against Chicago and won the season series for the fourth straight year. Seattle also swept four games from Chicago in June 1992.

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