7th Longest Home Run Game Recap
Marlins 7, Cardinals 6
ST. LOUIS (Aug 27, 1998 - 4:13 EDT) -- When Sammy Sosa homers, stand by for a long ball from Mark McGwire.
Last week, Sosa overtook McGwire for the major-league home run lead with No. 48, and it held up about an hour as the St. Louis Cardinals' slugger responded with two to beat the Cubs in extra innings. McGwire was watching on TV in the clubhouse when Sosa hit his 52nd home run Wednesday afternoon, and hours later he had a 509-foot answer off rookie Justin Speier in a 7-6, 10-inning loss to the Florida Marlins.
"I can only take care of myself," McGwire said, then smiled at a group of reporters in the media room created for his chase of Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs in 1961.
"I guess that makes your job much more interesting, and the public gets a lot more interested in it, too."
It's the biggest sports story in the country, and the only story line that counts on a 62-70 team.
"I know what America is watching," McGwire said. "They're not watching the Cardinals, they're watching me."
Everybody, it seems, is rooting for him.
"The focus should be on McGwire, he's the story in baseball right now," Marlins manager Jim Leyland said. "I want him to break it.
"I can't even begin to believe what the poor guy is going through."
McGwire needs eight homers to break Maris' record of 61 homers in a season, and is only the third player in NL history to hit 54 homers and the first in 49 years. Ralph Kiner hit 54 homers in 1949 and Hack Wilson hit a league-record 56 in 1930.
He has 30 games to reach Maris' mark, with 19 of those at home, where McGwire has obliterated the stadium record with 28 this season. The previous mark was 18.
McGwire is doing his best to enjoy the chase, even though the loss was one of the most excruciating of the season. After McGwire and John Mabry hit two-run homers in a five-run eighth to put the Cardinals ahead 6-0, the Marlins hit four homers in the ninth to tie it.
Derrek Lee, Cliff Floyd and Kevin Orie hit back-to-back-to-back homers in an eight-pitch sequence off reliever John Frascatore, and Mark Kotsay's three-run pinch-hit homer off Jeff Brantley tied it 6-6.
Manager Tony La Russa planned to watch the game again on tape delay as punishment.
"I feel like kicking the screen," La Russa said. "You can't kick the screen unless you watch the replay."
After the St. Louis bullpen blew its 29th save, Randy Knorr's RBI double in the 10th off Juan Acevedo (6-3) sent the Cardinals to their fifth straight loss. The Cardinals have lost eight games when leading after eight innings.
Antonio Alfonseca (3-6) worked two scoreless innings.
Fernando Tatis tripled to lead off the eighth and McGwire drove an 0-1 fastball for the shortest of his four 500-foot-plus homers this year at Busch Stadium. Center fielder Todd Dunwoody never moved as the ball soared over his head and landed just above the wall used for background beyond center field.
"I knew it was gone," Speier said. "You want to challenge a hitter like him and go right after him, and if he hits one off you, oh well."
McGwire hit 58 homers last year, 34 with Oakland and 24 with the Cardinals after joining St. Louis on July 31.
He warmed up with eight homers in 15 batting-practice swings, including one that banged off the scoreboard beyond the left-field wall. But before ending a seven at-bat homer drought -- roughly his season ratio -- his power had been straight up.
McGwire hit towering popups in the first and sixth off Marlins starter Kirt Ojala and took a called strike in the fourth, never taking the bat off his shoulder. McGwire is 0-for-7 against Ojala.
"I tried to go at him like any other hitter and I was fortunate the ball stayed in the park," Ojala said. "I went after him and I was lucky."
Speier knocked down Brian Jordan with his first pitch after giving up McGwire's homer. Marlins manager Jim Leyland was ejected after home-plate umpire Harry Wendlestedt warned both benches.
Cardinals starter Darren Oliver allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings. He struck out six and walked three in his most impressive outing since joining the Cardinals July 31 in a trade deadline deal with Texas.
The Cardinals lost second baseman Delino DeShields on the game's first out. DeShields strained his left shoulder making a diving stop on a grounder by John Cangelosi, but made the play before leaving.
Notes: The guys behind McGwire have been pretty productive, too. Ray Lankford has nine homers and 44 RBIs in 65 starts and Jordan, who singled and doubled in four at-bats, has 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 60 starts. ... Floyd, who was 4-for-5, needs one double to tie Bobby Bonilla's team record of 39. ... Cangelosi is in an 0-for-16 slump after going hitless in four at-bats. ... The Marlins hit three homers in an inning May 22, 1994, against St. Louis, but in Pro Player Stadium. Carl Everett, Rich Renteria and Jeff Conine connected in that game.