As an aging southpaw with a batting average in the low .200s, Ken Griffey Jr. doesn’t get many chances to face left-handed pitchers.
But he made the most of his rare opportunity Sunday afternoon.
Facing San Francisco Giants lefty starter Barry Zito, Griffey smacked the first pitch he saw over the fence in right field for a two-run home run.
After the game, Griffey played down the significance of facing left-handed pitching.
“My dad (Ken Sr.) was left-handed,” he said, “so do you think I really care?”
The left-handed Griffey typically sits when the Mariners face a left-handed starter. But manager Don Wakamatsu said before Sunday’s game that the decision to start Griffey was twofold.
First of all, the Mariners were playing the first of three games against scheduled left-handed starters, meaning Wakamatsu would have to start Griffey against one of the southpaws if he wanted the 39-year-old designated hitter to get playing time.
Wakamatsu also said that Zito’s recent struggles against left-handed batters helped make the decision.
Said Wakamatsu, “I told Griff: ‘Guys like you make managers look smart.’ ”
In three plate appearances against Zito on Sunday, Griffey homered, walked and struck out while batting in the cleanup spot for the second consecutive game.