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Angels Lose as Respite Ends With Bang for Griffey Jr.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ken Griffey Jr. was resting on the bench, not on his laurels, as the ninth inning opened Sunday.

The rigors of a long season will weigh on even someone as young as 20, and, although Griffey and his namesake father had made history Friday by hitting back-to-back home runs, Manager Jim Lefebvre held Ken Jr. out of the starting lineup Saturday and Sunday.

But when Jay Buhner singled to left to start the ninth against Angel reliever Bryan Harvey and pinch-hitter Alvin Davis reached on a liner that neither Harvey nor shortstop Dick Schofield could handle, Griffey’s respite ended.

“You want, as a manager, to get your big guy a chance,” Lefebvre said. “I felt Griffey was the guy to go up there. You don’t want him sitting on the bench when the game ends. . . . It’s nice to have something like that come off the bench, isn’t it? Maybe the rest helped.”

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The rest may have rejuvenated Griffey, but the sight of a forkball floating up and over the plate also helped. Griffey, who had missed only one game before this weekend, hit a 1-and-2 pitch from Harvey over the fence in deepest center field to give Seattle a 5-3 comeback victory, an unlikely ending to a game that featured two pitchers who had pitched no-hitters this season.

“Junior’s that type of player,” said Angel starter Mark Langston, a teammate of Griffey’s last season until Langston was traded to Montreal. “He rises to the occasion with the best of them, and he’s proved it this whole year.”

And last year, too. Of his 37 career homers, 27 have either tied the game or put Seattle ahead.

“I’m up there to hit the ball hard. I’m focusing on the ball, not the location,” said Griffey, whose father had a pulled hamstring Sunday. “I hit it good enough to go out or to go a long way. I wanted it to go out.”

Harvey (3-4) obviously didn’t, but knew it probably would. “It sounded pretty good coming off the bat,” said the right-hander, who missed a chance to break the club record of 65 career saves that he shares with Dave LaRoche. “I didn’t even look back at it.”

Langston, who combined with Mike Witt on April 11 to no-hit the Mariners in the first of nine major-league no-hitters this season, left after eight innings with a 3-2 lead. However, he left without a cap placed three days ago on a molar on the bottom-right side of his mouth. “I was chewing gum, and as I ran off the field it kind of exploded,” Langston said.

He was done, anyway, having given up two runs--both in the first inning on Buhner’s two-out double. That was enough to give the Angels a chance against left-hander Randy Johnson.

Johnson, who pitched the first no-hitter in the Mariners’ history on June 2 against Detroit, yielded home runs Sunday to Bobby Rose in the fifth inning and Rick Schu in the seventh. Johnson gave up a single to Rose and a walk to Devon White in the seventh before yielding to Bill Swift (6-4), who gave up an RBI single to Dick Schofield.

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“Randy’s pitched very well for them this year. I knew it would be a pretty close ballgame,” said Langston, who moved ahead of Johnson and into fifth place on the American League strikeout list with 182. “Unfortunately, I gave up those runs in the first inning. I knew if we could keep it close, the way our offense was going, we’d have a shot and we responded. . . .

“Yeah, I would have liked to win this one, just from the standpoint that we’ve been playing well and we battled back. It’s a tough one.”

Mike Jackson had a tough time earning his third save of the season. He walked pinch-hitter Luis Polonia before striking out Schu and getting Rose to fly to left, then walked White. Jack Howell, whose pinch-hit homer against Jackson on May 3 is the Angels’ only pinch-hit homer this season, walked to load the bases, but Johnny Ray ended the game with a first-pitch fly to center.

“It was a very, very exciting finish,” Lefebvre said.

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But an unhappy finish for Harvey, who replayed Griffey’s homer in his mind. “If I get that pitch down a little further he may hit a ground-ball double play and who knows?” Harvey said. “But I didn’t and he hit it out. . . . I threw six (forkballs) in a row, and that ain’t too bad if I don’t leave it in the middle of the plate. It’s not his fault. I threw it.”

Angel Notes

Bobby Rose’s fifth-inning home run off Randy Johnson Sunday ended Rose’s 13-month wait between homers. He hit his first on Aug. 16, 1989, off Minnesota’s Shane Rawley.

“It feels a lot easier this year than last when it was my first time up,” said Rose, who is three for six in two games since being recalled from triple-A Edmonton on Thursday. “It seems like baseball now instead of me being in awe of everything.”

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He retrieved the home-run ball for his father, after keeping his first one last year for himself. "(Johnson) was throwing mainly fastballs until my third at-bat then he started mixing it up,” Rose said. “I don’t care how long I have to wait. I’ll take a homer any way I can.”

One Angel is enduring a longer wait: Catcher Ron Tingley hasn’t homered since Aug. 3, 1988.

Despite Sunday’s defeat, the Angels are assured of a .500 record at home this season. They’re 41-34 with six home games remaining. They were 52-29 at Anaheim Stadium last season. Doug Rader is the third Angel manager to record back-to-back winning seasons at home, following Bill Rigney (1964-67) and Gene Mauch (1985-86).

Seattle took the season series, 8-5. The Orioles (7-5), Red Sox (7-5) and White Sox (8-5) have also won season series from the Angels.

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