Home run #: 24
Date: May 24
Opponent: San Francisco Giants
Location: Busch Stadium
Pitcher: Robb Nen
Runners on: 1
Distance: 397 feet
End of day Sammy Sosa total: 9
End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 18
Mark McGwire had a blast or four facing the Giants in this series, but the home run he hit in this one might have been the most dramatic. It didn’t win the ballgame, but it sure kept the Cards from losing it for a while.
The starters in this one were Mark Petkovsek and Shawn Estes, not that either of them would be around by time this got decided. Petkovsek started off with a clean frame while the Cards struck in the bottom of the first when singles by Ron Gant and McGwire, followed by a walk to Ray Lankford, loaded the bases with one out. Willie McGee then singled in one run, but the rest were stranded by the bottom of the lineup.
The one run held up until the third, when the Giants responded with a Bill Mueller single, a Barry Bonds walk, and a Jeff Kent double. They took the lead in the fifth when Bonds singled in Estes with two outs.
That lead lasted until the bottom of the frame, when Gant walked with one out, went to second on a botched pickoff, then scored on a Delino Deshields double. The Giants then intentionally walked McGwire–not the last time that sentence will be relevant–and then unintentionally walked Lankford again to load the bases again. McGee got his second RBI of the night with a groundout and the Cards were up 3-2.
The scoring settled down then and Petkovsek and his relievers held the Giants at bay through the eighth inning. In the bottom of the eighth, McGee singled leading off against Julian Tavarez, moved to second on a groundout, then after an intentional walk to John Mabry to create a forceout, Clayton grounded into what looked to be a 5-4-3 double play, but the throw from Kent was offline and McGee scored while Clayton was safe at first. An insurance run never hurts, right?
Especially when facing the top of that potent Giants lineup. Rich Aurilia started the inning against Juan Acevado with a walk, something you never want to do in this situation. Acevado got the next two outs, but couldn’t get past Barry Bonds. Bonds hit a drive over the right field wall and suddenly, after holding the lead most of the game, the Cards saw themselves knotted up at four apiece. Gant walked in the bottom of the ninth and, after one out, McGwire was again intentionally passed. After a Lankford groundout, McGee was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Tom Pagnozzi couldn’t make them pay.
On to extras! St. Louis got the first two batters on in the 10th against Danny Darwin. Darwin got Brian Hunter to pop out, but then was replaced by closer Robb Nen. Nen threw a wild pitch, moving the runners up and putting the winning run 90 feet away with one out, but Gant struck out. Delino DeShields then walked to load the bases in front of McGwire, which was crazy dangerous the way that McGwire was going. Nen had his number this time, though, striking him out to get out of the inning.
The top of San Francisco’s lineup did damage again in the top of the 12th. Mueller, who could pass some of these hitting tips along to his current charges if you know what I mean, doubled to start it all off. John Frascatore did get Bonds to strike out, but couldn’t get past Jeff Kent, who homered to put the Giants up 6-4. Frascatore got two groundouts (including Nen, which is interesting and important) but the damage was done.
Tom Lampkin started the bottom of the 12th with a foulout and Gant flew out, leaving the Cards one out away from a tough loss. Deshields kept hope alive with a single, which brought up McGwire.
Nen started McGwire off with a strike, then a foul ball was sandwiched between two balls. As Mike Shannon likes to say, deuces were wild with two balls, two strikes, two outs, down by two. Nen, who was into his third inning of work here, threw a pitch that hung in the zone and Big Mac, well, there’s a reason we have this series.
According to the clip above, McGwire tied Ken Griffey Jr. for most homers through May with this blast, a record he’d soon hold on his own.
On to more extras! Both teams had chances in the 13th but were unable to capitalize. In the bottom of the 14th, with two out and nobody on, McGwire was intentionally walked, a move that almost backfired when Lankford followed with a single, but McGee struck out to end the threat.
Nothing in the fifteenth. Nothing in the sixteenth. Finally, after a really long Sunday of baseball, the Giants broke through in the top of the 17th, plating three runs against Kent Mercker on a walk, a single, a bunt that was thrown away, and another single. McGwire led off the bottom of the frame and, with a three run lead, the Giants pitched to him, but he struck out. St. Louis couldn’t come up with anything and fell for the 23rd time in the ’98 season.