Home run #: 3
Date: April 3
Opponent: San Diego Padres
Location: Busch Stadium
Pitcher: Mark Langston
Runners on: 1
Distance: 364 feet
End of day Sammy Sosa total: 0
End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 2
Unfortunately, given the way that 1998 played out with the Cardinals, this home run was all too typical. It gave a jolt to the fans, it made for a nice highlight, but it ultimately didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game.
Of course, that wasn’t McGwire’s fault. Manny Aybar, who would basically be relegated to the bullpen for the rest of his career after 14 starts in ’98, put the Cardinals in a 6-0 hole before the end of the first inning. In fairness, that was when the Padres had a loaded lineup and Steve Finley, Tony Gwynn, Ken Caminiti, Greg Vaughn, and Wally Joyner all played a role in that large frame. Given the nature of things, climbing out of that hole wasn’t likely to happen for any time.
The Padres tacked on another run in the second before St. Louis was able to rally for two in the fourth, with McGwire walking in that frame but not coming around to score. The Friars got two more in the fifth against Mark Petkovsek, taking a 9-2 lead in to the bottom of the frame.
Royce Clayton, a couple of years past that disastrous intro to St. Louis and his battle with Ozzie Smith (but just a couple of months away from ending his tenure under the Arch), led off with a walk and scored on a triple by Brian Jordan. Often, with a runner on third and nobody out, folks would have just walked McGwire, but when you are up 9-3 you can safely challenge anyone. Langston ran the count full, then saw McGwire put the payoff pitch over the left field wall.
That made the score 9-5, but it never got any better. San Diego scored one in the sixth and three in the ninth to make this one really ugly. McGwire ended the game with a popup to second and St. Louis had lost their first game of the year.