Franklin, Saunders home runs back up solid outing from Seattle starter
CINCINNATI — Aaron Harang got on the mound where he started 112 games with the Reds and had another pleasant night in Cincinnati’s familiar muggy air — even got some applause from fans, too.
Made him feel right at home.
Harang went six innings in the ballpark where he still holds the strikeout record, and Nick Franklin and Michael Saunders homered on Friday night, leading the Seattle Mariners to a 4-2 victory over the Reds.
“I made many a start on that mound,” said Harang, who had never pitched against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. “I got back out there and it felt like old times.”
Harang (4-7) limited his former team to a pair of runs and six hits, including Joey Votto’s 15th homer. Oliver Perez struck out the side in the ninth for his second save.
The Mariners are making their second visit to Cincinnati and their first to Great American Ball Park, which opened in 2003. In their other trip, they swept a three-game series at Cinergy Field in 2002. The Mariners are 9-1 all-time against the Reds.
Seattle and Cincinnati will always have one notable baseball connection: Ken Griffey Jr., who grew up in Cincinnati, developed into one of the majors’ best with Seattle, and returned to his hometown in a trade before the 2000 season. Griffey finished his career in 2010, when he retired from the Mariners.
Now, there’s another.
Harang pitched for the Reds from 2003-10, starting five season openers. He holds the record for most career strikeouts at Great American with 598, including his four on Friday night.
The 35-year-old pitcher has kept in touch with several former Reds teammates and some of his former neighbors. When Homer Bailey threw his second career no-hitter on Tuesday night in Cincinnati, Harang got to watch part of it on television in Texas and sent along congratulations.
“This is my second home,” he said.
The only time he felt out of place was when he warmed up in the visitors’ bullpen by the right-field line.
“I was a little nervous when I first went out there today,” he said. “It was an awkward feeling coming out from the other side of the field.”
He got over the awkward feeling fast.
“It has to be a big deal for him,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He spent a lot of years here, had a lot of good years here. The fans appreciated him. He went out and threw a good ballgame.”
Not so for Mike Leake (7-4). Franklin hit a two-run homer in the first inning. Saunders had a solo homer and a sacrifice fly off Leake, who lasted five innings.
Leake originally was scheduled to pitch on Thursday against San Francisco, but got pushed back a day because of a rainout. Leake had allowed only nine earned runs in his last nine starts, going 5-1 with a 1.31 ERA.
That stretch of fine pitching ended quickly.
Brad Miller, batting leadoff for the first time, hit Leake’s third pitch for a triple to right-center. Franklin homered on the next pitch.
“Those first two balls, they’ve got two runs,” Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said. “You’re surprised. They came out swinging. And with Harang throwing well and mixing his pitches and hitting his spots, that’s a win.”
Saunders led off the second inning with his fifth homer. He hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth for a 4-0 lead, the most runs Leake had allowed in a game since May 8.
Miller also tripled down the right-field line in the fifth but was stranded at third. He’s the first Mariner to have two triples in one game since Carlos Guillen in 2003 and the 13th overall, according to STATS LLC.
Seattle slugger Raul Ibanez extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single.
The Reds honored Homer Bailey on the field before the game for his second career no-hitter on Tuesday night against San Francisco. Jim Maloney, who also threw two no-hitters for the Reds, joined in the festivities and threw a ceremonial pitch to batterymate Johnny Edwards. … Franklin’s homer gave Seattle 20 in the first inning this season, most in the majors. … Saunders had been out of the lineup the last six games with a finger injury. … Mariners OF Michael Morse, on the 15-day DL since June 22 with a strained right thigh, plans to run the bases on Saturday to test the leg. He’s close to starting a rehab assignment. … The Reds wore white Fourth of July caps that were made for Thursday’s game.
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