Home run #: 47
Date: August 11
Opponent: New York Mets
Location: Busch Stadium
Pitcher: Bobby Jones
Runners on: 0
Distance: 464 feet
End of day Sammy Sosa total: 46
End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 40
After a couple of homerless (and, in fact, hitless days), Mark McGwire entered play on August 11th in a very strange place–tied for the home run lead. McGwire had been 15 home runs ahead of Sammy Sosa in the last days of May. Now, with the ides of August upon them, the two sluggers stood atop the leaderboard with the very real chance that the person who would break Roger Maris‘s record would not be the same person that would hold the record at the end of the season.
Given the fact that Sosa had crushed two homers in San Francisco the night before, the tie between the two was less than 24 hours old when the Cardinals and Mets took the field (though Sosa had already played in an afternoon game against the Giants, going 1-2 with no homers). As we will see down the stretch, McGwire always rose to the challenge when his supremacy was challenged.
He almost wasted no time with taking the lead back, because after a scoreless top of the first hurled by Kent Mercker, McGwire doubled with two outs in the first. However, Ray Lankford struck out swinging and the scoring opportunity was lost.
The Mets, having dodged that bullet, answered with one of their own. Brian McRae doubled to center, but the next two batters struck out. Then, inexplicably, Tony La Russa called for an intentional walk of Rey Ordonez. Rey Ordonez hit .246 in his career. Rey Ordonez was the one guy that, when my friends and I did fantasy baseball, we always jokingly tried to get someone to draft because of how poor his offensive numbers were. Sure, the pitcher was hitting behind him, but if you are really that concerned about a one-run game that you intentionally pass Ordonez in the second inning, I don’t know what to tell you.
Anyway, La Russa passed the shortstop sporting a .606 OPS to get to the pitcher and baseball, well, baseball has a way of punishing folks that try to get too smart. Bobby Jones, that aforementioned pitcher, doubled and drove in both runners. Jermaine Allensworth singled, plating a third run and going to second on an error by Willie McGee. Edgardo Alfonzo also singled, making the lead 4-0. By the time John Olerud struck out, you wonder if TLR wasn’t rethinking that whole intentional pass decision.
Things stayed the same until the bottom of the fourth. McGwire led off the frame and leading off an inning seemed to be when he could do a lot of damage, especially since that’s when they would pitch to him. He took one pitch, then Jones left a middling fastball up and you really shouldn’t do that to Mark McGwire.
Taking back the homer lead pulled the Cards to within three, but no one else chipped in and the Mets got that run back in the top of the fifth when Alfonzo doubled, Olerud singled, and Mike Piazza (whom the Cards had last seen in that brief stint as a Marlin) hit a sacrifice fly that made it 5-1.
Merker left after the fifth and Mark Petkovsek threw a scoreless sixth before running into trouble in the seventh. Alfonzo again singled but stayed at first as Olerud lined out. Piazza then grounded out, forcing Alfonzo at second but the Cardinals were unable to turn the double play. That cost them when Brian McRae singled, putting runners on second and third, and then Todd Hundley singled to bring Piazza in, though McRae was thrown out trying to go to third.
St. Louis made a bit of noise in the bottom of the seventh as Fernando Tatis led off the inning with a home run off of Jones and then, after a Eli Marrero fly out, Tom Lampkin pinch-hit for Petkovsek and hit his own long ball, making it 7-3.
That was all the scoring the Cardinals could muster in this game, though they did get a couple of runners on in the ninth. The Mets, on the other hand, tacked on two more against Bobby Witt in the eighth when Alfonzo finished his four-hit night by driving in Luis Lopez with a single and Olerud brought in Matt Franco with a single of his own.
The Cardinals lost another one, keeping them well under .500, but McGwire had taken back the home run lead. You take your happiness where you can find it!