ST. LOUIS -- Billy Wagner knows there's absolutely no shame in being on Mark McGwire's lengthy list of victims.
The Houston Astros' closer gave up one of McGwire's more memorable homers, an 11th-inning, three-run, game-winning drive into the upper deck on July 11. He only wishes it had traveled more than a measly 485 feet.
"I got cheated on distance," Wagner said. "I thought it was 500 feet easy.
"What's 15 more feet? Come on now, I don't want to be down there in the mix with everybody else."
Five of McGwire's 65 homers have been measured at more than 500 feet. Wagner's gopher ball is seventh on the length list, which he says isn't nearly good enough for a player of his stature.
"I consider myself a power pitcher, and he's a power hitter, and I'm going to go right at him," Wagner said. "I gave him my best fastball and all he did was hit it 485 feet?
"Is that 485 feet high?"
Though he enjoys being a footnote to history, Wagner said he'd never serve one up for the sake of history. He retired McGwire on a deep fly to center in the ninth inning Wednesday night.
"You kind of step back and say `This is a guy that's making history, and I'm getting to face him,' " Wagner said. "I'm honored to be on the field.
"But I would never give him just a meat pitch. It's got to be my best pitch and his best swing."
Wagner vs. McGwire is a physical mismatch, considering the pitcher is 5-11 and 180 pounds and McGwire is 6-5 and 250. Then again, Wagner is a tough customer with 30 saves and a strong constitution, judging from his comeback after being struck in the head by a line drive in July at Arizona.
"Everybody is bigger than me," Wagner said. "It's not like I'm going up there to intimidate you.
"I don't worry about the size of the guy. I've had little guys hit bombs off me, so it doesn't really bother me."
Having survived McGwire, Wagner now turns his attention to co-home run leader Sammy Sosa. The Cubs wrap up the season with a three-game series in Houston that starts Friday.
"He's no slouch," Wagner said. "He's just as big as obstacle as McGwire, even if he isn't as big. Sosa can hit it out anywhere and McGwire, most of the time, he's going to pull it."
Wagner is one of 60 pitchers who have given up homers to McGwire this year. The only repeat customers are Jeff Suppan of Arizona, Tyler Green of Philadelphia, Rick Reed of New York, Livan Hernandez of Florida and John Thomson of Colorado.
Suppan (Nos. 5 and 6 on April 14) and Green (Nos. 18 and 19 on May 19) gave up two on the same day. Reed allowed McGwire's 400th career homer and No. 13 this year, on May 8. He also gave up No. 51 on Aug. 20.
Hernandez surrendered the longest measured home run in Busch Stadium, a 545-foot shot that dented an advertising sign far above the center field wall on May 16. He was on the receiving end when McGwire hit No. 56 on Sept. 1 to tie Hack Wilson's 68-year-old NL record, a mark that fell later that game when he hit No. 57 off Donn Pall.
Thomson was touched for No. 25 on May 25, the shot that broke the major-league record for homers before June 1. Then he gave up No. 44, which broke Hall of Famer Johnny Mize's 1940 team record, on July 26.
© 2017. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us