Marking McGwire: #33

Home run #: 33

Date: June 18

Opponent: Houston Astros

Location: Astrodome

Pitcher: Shane Reynolds

Score: 6-4

Inning: 5

Outs: 0

Runners on: 0

Distance: 449 feet

End of day Sammy Sosa total: 25

End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 27

Home runs can come in spurts.  After a few days without a long ball, Mark McGwire went deep in back to back days before going quiet again.  He wasn’t the only one taking advantage of Houston pitching in this one, however.

It was Shane Reynolds vs. Kent Bottenfield in this one.  Reynolds was a serviceable mid-rotation pitcher who was coming to the end of his prime (1999 would be his last real good year) and Bottenfield, well, he was still a year away from that fluke year that turned him into Jim Edmonds.  (Talk about a dated trade.  Nobody would trade Edmonds for Bottenfield now just because of 16 wins.)  Both starters began the game with a scoreless first, though the Astros were able to put two runners on against Bottenfield.  Bottenfield was able to get Moises Alou to line out to right to end the threat, however.

The bats really started going in the second.  Brian Jordan started the inning with a double and John Mabry followed with a walk.  Ron Gant then doubled down the line, scoring Jordan and putting runners on second and third.  The next batter, Tom Lampkin, went up the middle for his double, scoring both runners.  Reynolds got the next two batters to strike out and after a Royce Clayton single put runners on the corners, got out of the jam by striking out Ray Lankford.

The Astros began countering in the bottom of the second.  Carl Everett doubled to start things off, then moved to third on a Sean Berry groundout.  Tony Eusabio then grounded to third and Houston was on the board.

St. Louis got that run back and more in the top of the third.  McGwire drew a walk on a full count, but then was forced at second on a Jordan groundout.  Jordan himself was forced at second when Mabry did the same thing, but Ron Gant saved the inning by belting one over the left field wall.  His two-run shot put the Cards up 5-1.

As we know, though, no lead is safe with the 1998 Cardinals.  Craig Biggio started the bottom of the third with a single and scored on a one-out double by Derek Bell.  In the fifth, Everett singled, moved to second on a one-out walk to Eusabio, and both batters advanced on a sacrifice bunt from Reynolds.  Bottenfield then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Everett, then Biggio singled in Eusabio to make it 5-4.

Back came the Cardinals with their most potent weapon, the long ball.  Ray Lankford smashed a 1-1 pitch to the right field bleachers, bringing up the Cardinals’ slugging first baseman.  McGwire took a strike, then a ball, then smoked a pitch that dropped down into his hitting zone. The ball landed well up in the left field seats, something not easy to do in the old Astrodome.

Reynolds was gone a batter later and after all the excitement in the early frames, the game finally quieted down a bit.  No more scoring for either team happened until the bottom of the seventh, when Jeff Bagwell, who had doubled with one out and moved to third on Moises Alou’s grounder, scored when John Frascatore threw a wild pitch.  The ninth got a bit dramatic, when Ricky Gutierrez started things off with a single and moved to second on a one out wild pitch.  (Sensing a theme yet?)  Bagwell grounded out, but Alou singled to put runners on the corners and bring the winning run to the plate.  Before Rich Croushore could retire Everett, though, he unleashed another wild pitch, so for the third time in this game, a Houston runner scored when a pitch got away from the catcher.  Four wild pitches in a game makes you wonder a little bit about the day Lampkin was having, huh?  Everett struck out and the Cards hung on for the 7-6 victory.

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