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Braves skirt historic homer, still lose

POSTED: June 13, 2008 5:01 a.m.

CINCINNATI — Ken Griffey Jr. couldn’t get the big homer in his hometown, but came away smiling anyway.

Jay Bruce has that effect.

Griffey remained one homer shy of 600, but Bruce completed his amazing debut week with a solo homer and a run-scoring single that led the Cincinnati Reds over the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Sunday.

The new kid on the block is reminding Griffey — formerly known as "The Kid" — of what it’s like to be a crowd-pleasing rookie on an amazing tear.

"He’s having the time of his life," Griffey said. "From a guy who did it 20 years ago: It’s definitely fun to see it, to see the kid smile day-in and day-out.

"Everybody knew he could hit, but it’s been a lot of fun to watch."

Not for the Braves.

Bruce went 13-for-22 with six walks, two homers, two steals and six RBIs in his first six games, the last three of them against Atlanta. The 21-year-old outfielder became the latest player to torment a team that can’t do anything right on the road.

Rookie right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-5) returned to his first-game form, allowing only a bunt single through the first six innings. Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann homered off Cueto in the seventh, but the comeback stopped there — again.

The Braves have been nearly unbeatable at Turner Field, going 22-7. Away from home, it’s nearly the identical opposite. Atlanta is 7-21 on the road, where it has lost its last 20 one-run games since August.

"It’s mind-boggling," starter Tim Hudson said.

Atlanta wound up swept in Cincinnati for the first time since September 1996.

"We just caught them at a bad time," second baseman Kelly Johnson said. "We need to get a voodoo doll or something."

From the first inning on, the focus was on Griffey, who connected for No. 599 in the Reds’ 10-inning, 8-7 victory on Saturday. Bruce ended that one with his first big league homer, a solo shot.

Griffey singled, doubled and flied out against Hudson (7-4), who left after straining his left hamstring in the seventh. The crowd of 35,942 booed when Blaine Boyer intentionally walked Griffey later in the inning with Bruce on second base.

"I’m not worried about 600," Griffey said. "If you hit the ball hard enough, it will go. A lot of things happen between 599 and 600 — getting hits, getting guys over and a lot of small things."

So, his quest to become the sixth to 600 now moves to Philadelphia, where Griffey will face right-hander Kyle Kendrick on Monday. Griffey is 4-for-5 career off Kendrick without a homer.

No surprise if the historic homer comes away from home. Griffey’s 200th, 300th, 400th and 500th homers have all come on the road — at Boston, Cleveland, Colorado and St. Louis.

Two rookies led the Reds to their 12th win in their last 13 home games. Cincinnati has been a lot like Atlanta in that regard — tough at home, roughed up on the road.

"I hope we can catch this momentum and whatever it is we have on the road and try to take it on the road," said Adam Dunn, who had a solo homer.

The 22-year-old Cueto had the most impressive debut ever by a Reds pitcher, but has looked more like a rookie since. He lasted only five innings in each of his last two starts.

Cueto didn’t allow a hit until Gregor Blanco led off the sixth with a bunt single. Teixeira homered with one out in the seventh, and McCann followed with the 14th homer allowed by Cueto.

Dunn hit 10 homers in May, and got the new month off to a powerful start on the first pitch he saw from Hudson, hitting a 420-foot drive to right. Bruce hit his second homer an inning later, drawing another round of "BRUUUUCE!" cheers from the crowd.

"It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before," Bruce said.

Bruce also singled home a run in the seventh, completing his amazing week. He had a pair of three-hit games, a four-hit game and a game-ending homer, all while trying to adapt to the big leagues.

"At first, it was ‘Wow!"’ Bruce said. "It’s starting to become real now."Notes: RHP John Smoltz threw one inning for Class A Rome and had one strikeout Saturday night in his latest rehab start. Smoltz, who has been on the DL since April 29 with a sore arm and shoulder, could be activated on Monday and join Atlanta’s bullpen. ... Hudson’s hamstring will be evaluated again on Monday. "I didn’t feel it pop," Hudson said. "I’ve had hamstring problems before. It’s a minor strain." ... Reds SS Jerry Hairston Jr. extended his hitting streak to nine games, matching his career high from 2002. ... Griffey’s major league debut at age 19 didn’t go as smoothly as Bruce’s. "I think I was 1-for-17 before I hit my first home run," Griffey said.



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