Home run #: 13
Date: May 8
Opponent: New York Mets
Location: Shea Stadium
Pitcher: Rick Reed
Runners on: 1
Distance: 358 feet
End of day Sammy Sosa total: 7
End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 14
It took a little bit for Mark McGwire to make it to “unlucky” number 13. After his smash against the Cubs on May 1, McGwire slipped into a 3-for-13 slump with only a double (and nine walks, two intentional) to show for it. The team had also scuffled, losing four of five against Chicago, Pittsburgh, and the Mets the night before. While it hadn’t hurt them terribly in the standings, they were still 3.5 games out and not trending in the right direction. We don’t remember it much, but Ken Griffey Jr. actually spent some time as the major league leader in home runs, passing Big Mac with his 13th on May 5 and hitting his 14th this evening as well.
Cliff Politte and Rick Reed squared off in a Friday night affair in Flushing, with the Mets coming in three games over .500 while the Cards were just a game over the break even mark. Reed, of course, might have been best known as one of the few strike-breakers from spring training 1995 that actually made it to the bigs and had any semblance of a career, even though he never was represented by the union due to his willingness to cross the picket line. Politte was a St. Louis boy that was in his rookie season and about to reach the end of it as well, at least in the bigs. He’d make one more start after this before returning to the minors and then being traded to the Phillies in the offseason (along with Jeff Brantley and Ron Gant) for Garrett Stephenson and Ricky Bottalico. That was the future, though.
McGwire took a walk in the top of the first but that was the only thing the Cardinals could muster. In the bottom of the first, Politte gave up one-out singles to Preston Wilson and Matt Franco before getting John Olerud to fly out. He wasn’t able to completely escape the jam, though, as he gave up a run scoring single to Carlos Baerga. Rich Becker reached on catcher’s interference by Tom Lampkin, but Luis Lopez grounded out to leave them loaded.
Nothing changed until the third inning. Royce Clayton flew out, but Delino DeShields roped a single into center. With a runner on, Reed went after McGwire, getting him to foul the first two pitches off. Reed then tried to get up in the zone and get a pitch past Big Mac. As you probably can imagine, that didn’t go well.
It was McGwire’s 400th career home run. Mind-bogglingly, he would hit #500 next year, becoming the only person at the time to ever have such milestones happen in back-to-back years. (Barry Bonds would do the same in 2001-2002.) McGwire was also the fastest ever to reach the plateau, doing so in just 4,726 at bats.
The Cards took at 2-1 lead on that swing but would put nothing together the rest of the night. McGwire fouled out in the fifth and struck out in the eighth. Meanwhile, Politte ran into trouble in the fourth, allowing a three-run homer to Brian McRae and an RBI double to Franco to allow the Mets to take a 5-2 lead. Politte started the sixth and allowed a single to Alberto Castillo and then walked his opposing number in Reed. That was enough for Tony La Russa, who went to the pen and brought in Mike Busby.
That was basically tossing fuel on the fire. Busby walked McRae to load the bases and then Wilson to force a run in. The next batter was legendary glove-first, bat-never man Rey Ordonez, who singled in a run. Olerud then grounded out, driving in the third run of the frame, before Baerga doubled in another tally. Busby got the next two out but there wasn’t much else left standing.
The Cards fell to .500 as yet again their pitching betrayed them. It was not exactly an unheard of story in 1998.