Marking McGwire: #18, #19, #20

Home run Pitcher Score Inning Outs Runners on Distance
18 Tyler Green 1-0 3 1 1 440 feet
19 Tyler Green 3-2 5 0 1 471 feet
20 Wayne Gomes 8-8 0 0 1 451 feet

Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies

Location: Veterans Stadium

End of day Sammy Sosa total: 8

End of day Ken Griffey Jr. total: 16

As we’ve mentioned, Mark McGwire really heated up in the middle of May.  While he’d been hitting a home run every other day, he decided to clump a few together on a Tuesday night with the Phillies in town.  It was his second and last three-homer game of the season, but since a large majority of players never have a three-homer game in their career, I think that’s pretty reasonable.  It started off as a slow night, however, with McGwire looked at strike three to end the first inning.  Tyler Green might have thought he had Big Mac’s number with that one, but it quickly was apparent he did not.

Green and Mark Petkovsek traded zeros for the first two innings, then Petkovsek led off the top of the third with a single to short.  Ron Gant followed with a double and then Delino Deshields drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly, with Gant moving over to third.  With one out and a runner on third, it was an interesting decision to pitch to McGwire instead of trying to get Ray Lankford to hit into a force or a double play, but that’s what Green did.

Green started McGwire off with a couple of balls, then tried to go on the outside of the plate where he struck McGwire out in the first.  The big redhead was ready and waiting though and launched one to center field, putting the Cards up 3-0.

The Phillies got back into the game in the bottom of the fourth, when Petkovsek allowed a couple of singles then, with two out, Royce Clayton booted a ball that allowed a run to score.  Desi Relaford then doubled in the other runner to make it 3-2 before Green struck out to end the threat.

Thankfully for the Cardinals, McGwire was due up in the top of the fifth.  Deshields led off with a double but since there were no outs, even first base being open didn’t encourage Philadelphia to give Big Mac the free pass.  McGwire swung and missed at Green’s first pitch and then took strike two before connecting on the third pitch from the Phillie hurler and sending it deep into the left-center field bleachers, making it a 5-2 game.  Ray Lankford followed that blast with a walk and, after a couple of ground outs, Clayton made up for his miscue by doubling him in.  Tom Pagnozzi followed and reached on an error by Relaford, scoring Clayton.

Normally, you’d think a 7-2 lead in the middle innings would be fairly comfortable, but as we’ve seen in this series, pitching wasn’t exactly the ’98 Cardinals strong suit.  In the bottom of the fifth, Petkovsek allowed two-run homers to future Cardinal Scott Rolen and never a Cardinal Mike Lieberthal to make it a one run game.  In the sixth, Petkovsek hit pinch-hitter Kevin Sefcik to open the frame and was removed for Lance Painter, who promptly allowed a single and then a sacrifice fly to tie the game.  After walks to Rolen and Rico Brogna, Painter was taken out for John Frascatore, who got two groundouts to get out of the frame, albeit with another run scoring.

Now having blown a five run lead and trailing by one, the Cards got to work in the eighth versus Wayne Gomes.  Ron Gant led off the inning with a solo shot to tie things up.  Deshields then singled, bringing up McGwire, the last person anyone in a Phillies uniform wanted to see.  On the first pitch, McGwire launched one in the same direction as his second blast, putting the Cards up two runs.  (Gomes had pitched the seventh with little issue, but he threw four pitches in the eighth and allowed three hits and two homers.)  Juan Acevado pitched the last two innings without much incident and the Cards, as they say, had ’em all the way.  You can watch the three homers below–it’s cued up to the first one.

McGwire had reached 20 homers before Memorial Day, usually the traditional quarter mark of the season.  It was an amazing feat, but while we didn’t quite know it yet, there was someone out there that was going to hit 20 homers in a much more compressed period of time.  And that time was getting much closer.

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