Marking McGwire: #28

Home run #: 28

Date: June 5

Opponent: San Francisco Giants

Location: Busch Stadium

Pitcher: Orel Hershiser

Score: 0-0

Inning: 1

Outs: 1

Runners on: 1

Distance: 409 feet

End of day Sammy Sosa total: 17

End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 22

If you are going to chase down a record, you need a lot of things.  You need to be very good.  You need to get in a groove.  You need to have a little luck.  And you need to stay healthy.  With Mark McGwire‘s track record in the past, that last point was going to be key.  So when he left the June 1 game against the Padres after one at-bat with back spasms, folks got concerned.  When he missed three more games in a row, folks got worried.

(By the way, there’s some problems looking things up after 20 years from the early internet days.  Thank goodness I have some books like Rob Rains’ Home Run Hero that I was able to scan and find out that it was back spasms that caused the (3) on the Baseball-Reference game log.)

McGwire returned to the lineup on Friday, June 5 and picked up where he left off, both overall and the pounding he gave the Giants earlier in the season.  I tend to forget that longtime Dodger Orel Hershiser actually spent a little time with their hated rivals.  I always like Hershiser as his scoreless inning streak was right after I really got into baseball.  That was almost ten years in the past at this point–wait, 59 innings is 30 this year?  I’m so old–and Hershiser was in his end-of-career phase, pitching for the Giants in ’98, the Mets in ’99, and returning to the Dodgers for a few final games in 2000.

In this one, Hershiser started off by getting Delino DeShields to ground out, but then Ray Lankford followed with a double.  Even though first base was open, since it was the first inning Hershiser and the Giants decided to see how healthy McGwire really was.  Hershiser got ahead 0-2 on a swinging strike and then a called version before wasting a pitch out of the zone.  On his fourth pitch, Hershiser caught more of the outside part of the plate than he wanted and McGwire showed his back was back.

Hershiser would allow no other scoring damage and the Giants answered in the third inning off of Kent BottenfieldDarryl Hamilton led off with a single and Bill Mueller and Barry Bonds drew walks, loading the bases with nobody out.  A Jeff Kent single drove in two and then a one-out grounder by J.T. Snow drove in the other.

That was it for the game.  Hershiser struck out McGwire in the fourth on his way to six innings of work.  McGwire singled off Steve Reed in the seventh and struck out against Robb Nen in the ninth.  Still, after a few days off, it was heartening to see another McGwire homer, especially since Sammy Sosa was starting to heat up.  The Great Home Run Race of 1998 was just about to ignite.

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