Home run #: 17
Date: May 18
Opponent: Florida Marlins
Location: Busch Stadium
Pitcher: Jesus Sanchez
Runners on: 0
Distance: 476 feet
End of day Sammy Sosa total: 8
End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 16
Whether it was the warmer weather, a great groove, or some mix of the two, with the middle of May rolling around Mark McGwire started going nuts, hitting basically a home run every other day. It may not have done a lot for the Cardinals’ record, but it definitely helped a lot for the overall home run total.
As we’ve noted a few times this season already, Manny Aybar started this one and, again, it didn’t go very well. This was his first start in 22 days, most likely due to a stint on the DL though I can’t seem to find anything to confirm. The first inning saw him allow an RBI double to Mark Kotsay, scoring Edgar Renteria. He was able to hold off the Marlins’ attack until the fourth, when the floodgates opened. Former Cardinal Todd Zeile singled in Mike Piazza (in his third of five games with the Marlins before moving on to his destiny with the Mets). After a walk to Derrick Lee, current Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell doubled in Cliff Floyd and Zeile.
Aybar was able to get his opposite number, Jesus Sanchez, to strike out and finally record an out in the fourth frame, but Todd Dunwoody singled in Lee and that was all for Mr. Aybar, who left the game sporting a season ERA of 9.12. It was pretty obvious what the problem with the 1998 Cardinals was if Manny Aybar made 14 starts for them. (Then again, he was 10-0 with a mid-2 ERA at Memphis, so I guess there’s a reason they kept giving him chances.)
As seemed to be his custom of late, McGwire led off the fourth inning. With the Marlins already up 5-0, Sanchez wasn’t going to get cute with anyone, much less a slugging redhead. After all, he’d gotten McGwire to fly out in the first. Sanchez’s first two pitches were outside the zone. The third wasn’t.
Sanchez’s pitch was launched out toward Big Mac Land (huh, I guess I was wrong in an earlier post when I indicated it didn’t exist yet) but wound up more to the right of it. Still, it was a towering blast that put the Cardinals on the board.
Unfortunately, as we noted last time, distance doesn’t count for extra points. The Cards still trailed 5-1 and that became 7-1 in the seventh when Piazza had a two-run triple off of Rich Croushore. Ron Gant semi-answered in the bottom of the frame with an RBI groundout that scored Brian Jordan and Ray Lankford went yard in the ninth, but it never was a close ballgame.
McGwire hit all of his balls in the air but only one made an impact. This also put him ahead of Ken Griffey Jr. for good. McGwire would be tied a couple of times but never be passed again on the chase for immortality.