Marking McGwire: #2

Home run #: 2

Date: April 2

Opponent: Los Angeles Dodgers

Location: Busch Stadium

Pitcher: Frank Lankford

Score: 5-5

Inning: 12

Outs: 2

Runners on: 2

Distance: 368 feet

End of day Sammy Sosa total: 0

End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 1

It’s a rare person that can remember all of the various Mark McGwire home runs that season.  It’s not a surprise to remember the Opening Day grand slam and of course we remember a lot about the milestone marks (no pun intended).  But there are some of these that need a little examination to remember much about them.

Lots of folks probably remember that McGwire tied a record by homering in four straight games to start the season.  That streak would have died aborning had it not been for a shoddy Cardinal bullpen, a problem those that watched last year’s team completely understand.  The Cardinals had put up three runs in the bottom of the third to take a 5-3 lead into the top of the ninth.  McGwire had not been a part of that, receiving an intentional walk in the eighth with a runner on and two outs.  McGwire had actually walked twice before in the game, then singled and struck out before receiving this intentional pass.  It worked out for the Dodgers, as they escaped the inning with no more damage.

Braden Looper came on to get the save in the ninth.  Looper was a rookie that season, his first Cardinals tour before being dealt to the Marlins and then returning later in his career, when he transitioned into the rotation and proved how good Dave Duncan could be.  Anyway, Looper had appeared in the first game of the year and struck out the three Dodgers he faced, locking down a 6-0 win.  Getting an actual save proved more difficult, as he got the first two batters to ground out, then gave up a single to Matt Luke and a home run to Thomas Howard.

That sent the game into extras and there was little going on either side during those frames.  McGwire struck out to end the 10th but then came up in the 12th with pitcher Juan Acevado, who had reached on an infield hit and gone to second and an error, and Royce Clayton (hit by pitch) on the bases.  With two outs in extras, the Dodgers went ahead and pitched to McGwire rather than facing Ray Lankford with the bases loaded.  Big Mac made them pay for that, roping an 0-1 pitch into left field.  It was the first of four extra-inning home runs McGwire would hit in his record-setting season.

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