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Homer barrage carries Pirates past Cincinnati



Published: Tue, April 1, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



CINCINNATI (AP) -- Something was inadvertently left out of the blueprints for the Cincinnati Reds' new ballpark. The home-field advantage is missing.

Great American Ball Park was designed to help Ken Griffey Jr. and the rest of the Reds' left-handed power hitters reach the seats with much more ease. Instead, it plays like it was built with the visiting team in mind.

Former Reds outfielder Reggie Sanders started Pittsburgh's three-homer barrage in one inning, and the Pirates won the ballpark's official opener 10-1 Monday.

Going deep

Kenny Lofton and Jason Kendall also homered as the Pirates dug in and made themselves right at home.

"The wind was blowing out pretty brisk tonight, but I imagine it's going to be a pretty fair hitters' park," Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said.

In two exhibitions against Cleveland and Monday's opener, the ballpark has favored some of the hitters -- those batting in the top of the innings. The Reds have been outscored 19-3 while losing both exhibitions and the one that counted.

"It looked like it's a Pirate hitters' park, unfortunately," said shortstop Barry Larkin, who caught a ceremonial first pitch from former President George Bush. "Hopefully, we'll start hitting like that."

The Reds were one of the majors' worst home teams in their last two seasons at Cinergy Field. They hoped the move to Great American, with an inviting 325-foot distance to the right-field foul pole, would perk them up.

So far, so wrong.

"I don't know," manager Bob Boone said. "We haven't swung well for the last 10 days of spring training. Some of it today might have been nerves."

Benson prevails

The Reds managed only one run -- an unearned one, at that -- in six innings off Kris Benson, who made his first opening day start. The right-hander walked Austin Kearns with the bases loaded for Cincinnati's only score.

His finest moment came in the third inning, with the Pirates ahead 6-0 but Griffey coming to bat with the bases loaded. Benson went to a full count, then threw a 92-mph fastball past Griffey, who has a history of going deep on opening day.

"He's always a tough out for me," Benson said. "I was thinking the whole time that this is going to decide the game. If he gets a double or base hit and scores a couple runs, they're right back in it."

Sanders, a mainstay on the Reds' 1995 playoff team, hit a two-run homer off Jimmy Haynes to start a nine-batter rally in the second. Lofton added a three-run shot, and Kendall followed with a solo homer five pitches later.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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