Reds 6, Yankees 2

Thursday, June 5th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The last time the Yankees came to town, they got swept. They're one loss away from having it happen again.

Ken Griffey Jr. shook off a tingling arm and hit one of Cincinnati's four homers off Mike Mussina as the Reds rolled to a 6-2 victory Wednesday night before another loud, capacity crowd.

By dropping the first two games of the long-awaited rematch of the 1976 World Series, the Yankees fell a half-game out of first in the AL East and got a raucous reminder that fans in both leagues love to see them lose.

"People enjoy beating us up," said shortstop Derek Jeter, who was appointed team captain before the series opener. "Their fans enjoy it, their players enjoy it, especially because of the success we've had the last few years. They use us as a measuring stick."

The Yankees were a measuring stick in 1976, when they came to town and got swept by the Big Red Machine. That championship defined the Reds as one of baseball's most powerful teams ever.

These Reds also like to swing away.

Griffey, Aaron Boone, Sean Casey and Jason LaRue homered off Mussina (7-4), who had given up only six homers in his 11 previous starts. He thought the setting had a lot to do with it.

More homers have been hit at Great American Ball Park (71 in 30 games) than anywhere else in the majors.

"A couple of times tonight, they hit pitches that people usually don't hit for home runs," said Mussina, who gave up four homers in a span of 11 batters. "In this ballpark, the ball flies out like Coors Field. It gets up in the air and you don't know what's going to happen."

Jason Giambi hit a two-run shot off Paul Wilson (3-4) that fit the occasion -- all eight runs generated by homers. The Reds would like to think it has more to do with how they're playing than with how the ball's carrying.

"That was one of the better games we've played this season," manager Bob Boone said. "We pitched well, made some plays and got some guys swinging the bats a little better."

Their only concern was Griffey, who returned from a dislocated right shoulder on May 13 and is just now starting to regain his form.

He fouled back a one-strike pitch in the fifth, then turned away and winced while moving his right arm. Boone and a trainer visited, and left him in the game.

"It happens from time to time," said Griffey, who returned before the shoulder was completely healed. "I feel all right. I just had a little tingling down my arm. After a few seconds, the numbness goes away. The doc said if I took a funky swing, to be ready for it."

The next pitch was off-speed, and Griffey hit it into the right-field stands for his 475th homer, tying Willie Stargell and Stan Musial for 22nd place. He held the right arm carefully at his side as he rounded the bases, then gave high-fives with his other arm before heading for the trainer's room.

Tests on the shoulder were negative, and the injury was diagnosed as a strained biceps. Griffey probably will sit out the final game of the series, but isn't expected to miss significant time.

The Yankees are concerned about the way they're playing. Since a 20-4 start, they've gone 13-21 and looked vulnerable.

"This is more than a (bad) stretch," Mussina said. "When you go a couple of weeks or a month, that's one of those stretches. But we haven't played consistently good since we got out of April. We're just not the same team we were then."

Notes: Mussina last gave up four homers in a 6-2 loss to Texas on Aug. 23. His career high is five homers by the Angels in 1994.

Jeter opened the game with a single, extending his hitting streak to a season-high 11 games.

Yankees 2B Alfonso Soriano singled in each of his first two at-bats for his 26th multihit game, the most in the AL.

The Reds stole three bases off Mussina, who hadn't allowed a steal in his last 14 regular-season starts.

2B Juan Castro, who had a game-ending single in the Reds' 4-3 victory on Tuesday night, was a late scratch because of a stiff neck.

Griffey has 33 homers against the Yankees.