Griffey sits back, relaxes and BOOM!

SIDELIGHT

April 25, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

"He gave me a pitch I could handle."

That was Ken Griffey's classic understatement about his game-winning home run off Brad Pennington yesterday that became the third longest ever hit at Camden Yards and the longest struck into the Eutaw Street corridor behind the right-field stands in a game.

Griffey, of course, also owns the longest shot ever hit to right at Oriole Park period, hitting the warehouse on the fly during last year's All-Star home run hitting contest.

In either case, "handle" wasn't the word for it. Manhandle would have been more suitable after Griffey's 438-foot shot carried over the scoreboard and the back fence to land on the concrete walkway yesterday. A little farther to the right and the ball might have plopped into Boog's barbecue.

The clout finished wiping out out a 6-3 Orioles lead in the eighth after Pennington's first pitch to the All-Star center fielder skipped away from Chris Hoiles for a wild pitch and allowed one run home.

Two pitches to Griffey. Presto. One 7-6 loss to Seattle.

Griffey batted in four runs for the day, giving him 54 against Baltimore, his highest total against any opponent. At Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, he has hit .364 with eight homers.

With runners on second and third and none out after the wild pitch, he said the objective was "to move one guy over [to third] and get the other guy in. But he gave me a pitch up belt high, so I hit it."

Griffey said he was trying to be patient and wasn't expecting Pennington to pitch him overly cautiously because "his job is to get me out. Today, I just sat back and relaxed and looked for something in."

Bobby Ayala, who has been told he will be the Seattle closer, came on in the bottom of the eighth and retired five straight batters after a bunt single by Cal Ripken.

"This game really meant a lot to us," said Ayala, who earned the team's first save and ended its four-game losing streak. "After Junior's big hit, we just had to take it."

Manager Lou Piniella was pleased after the come-from-behind victory, calling it "just what we need. If you could script the way you want to get untracked, this is it."

Seattle produced late-inning magic after kicking the ball around early, giving up three unearned runs. The Mariners have permitted 23 unearned runs, tops in the majors.

But catcher Dan Wilson's pickoff of Rafael Palmeiro at second base, Ayala's tight relief and a single by rookie Dan Bragg off Jamie Moyer's glove that launched the winning rally supported Griffey's heroics.

Then Griffey struck with a ball that fell 25 feet short of the warehouse, the closest anyone has ever come in a regular-season game. It was a foot closer than a Mickey Tettleton drive landed two years ago.

"He just crushed that ball," said Piniella.

"I wasn't expecting anything in particular," said Griffey. "I just sat back and waited."

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