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Central Division

East Division

Series Wrapup

Story

The division races in the National League took a backseat to the thrilling home run race waged between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998.  The nation focused much of its attention on the two sluggers as they continued their inexorable march towards a new single-season home-run record.  McGwire, who one year earlier mounted a serious challenge to Roger Maris’ 37-year-old record of 61, ended up obliterating the old mark by hitting 70 round-trippers.  After crushing number 62 on September 8, he showed his respect for the former record-holder by hugging Maris’ children before a national television audience.  McGwire subsequently hit eight more homers, including five on the season’s final weekend, to become the first player to reach the 70-homer plateau.  McGwire also ended the season with 147 runs batted in, 130 runs scored, a .299 batting average, and a league-leading 162 bases on balls, .470 on-base percentage, and .752 slugging average.       

Making McGwire’s pursuit of baseball’s most cherished single-season mark all the more fascinating was the fact that Chicago’s Sammy Sosa joined him in the chase.  A torrid month of June, in which Sosa hit a record 20 home runs, put the Cubs right-fielder in the hunt as well.  Sosa concluded the campaign with 66 homers of his own, earning N.L. MVP honors by leading his team into the playoffs as the senior circuit’s wild-card representative.  Still, it took a victory over the San Francisco Giants in a one-game playoff for the Cubs to advance to the postseason tournament.

Chicago finished the year with a record of 90-73, 12 ½ games behind the first-place Houston Astros in the N.L. Central, and one game ahead of the 89-74 Giants in the race for the wild card.  Only poor pitching prevented the Cubs from clinching a playoff berth in a more conventional manner.  While the Cubs placed third in the senior circuit with 831 runs scored and 212 home runs, they finished just 11th in the league with a 4.47 team ERA.  Although Kevin Tapani led the staff with 19 victories, 21-year-old Kerry Wood established himself as the team’s most effective starter over the course of the season.  Wood earned N.L. Rookie of the Year honors by winning 13 games, compiling a 3.40 ERA, and finishing among the league leaders with 233 strikeouts.  

Sosa’s booming bat led Chicago’s offensive attack.  In addition to hitting 66 home runs, Sosa led the league with 158 runs batted in, scored 134 runs, and batted .308.  Mark Grace and Henry Rodriguez ably assisted Sosa in the middle of Chicago’s lineup.  Grace batted .309, knocked in 89 runs, and scored 92 others.  Rodriguez hit 31 homers and drove in 85 runs.

Although the Giants just missed making the playoffs, their batting order featured two of the league’s top players in Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds.  Kent hit 31 homers, drove in 128 runs, and batted .297.  Bonds went deep 37 times, knocked in 122 runs, scored 120 others, and batted .303.

The N.L. Central champion Houston Astros were the senior circuit’s highest-scoring team, tallying 874 runs en route to posting a regular-season record of 102-60.  Houston’s lineup included the formidable threesome of Moises Alou, Craig Biggio, and Jeff Bagwell.  Alou hit 38 home runs, knocked in 124 runs, scored 104 others, and batted .312.  Biggio hit 20 homers, drove in 88 runs, led the league with 51 doubles, and placed among the leaders with 123 runs scored, 210 hits, 50 stolen bases, and a .325 batting average.  Bagwell hit 34 four-baggers, drove in 111 runs, crossed the plate 124 times, and batted .304.

Houston also had a solid pitching staff, finishing second in the league with a team ERA of 3.50.  Shane Reynolds led the club with 19 victories and 209 strikeouts.  After joining the Astros just prior to the trade deadline on July 31, Randy Johnson went 10-1 with a miniscule 1.28 ERA over the season’s final two months.    

Houston ended up finishing a close second to Atlanta in the race for the league’s best overall record.  The Braves continued their domination of the N.L. East by capturing their fourth straight division title with a record of 106-56 that left them 18 games ahead of the runner-up New York Mets in the final standings.  Once again the National League’s most well-balanced team, the Braves finished fourth in the senior circuit with 826 runs scored, while leading the league with an exceptional 3.25 team ERA.

Andres Galarraga paced Atlanta’s offensive attack, hitting 44 home runs, driving in 121 runs, scoring 103 others, and batting .305.  Javy Lopez and Chipper Jones also made significant contributions to the Braves on offense.  Lopez hit 34 homers and knocked in 106 runs.  Jones also hit 34 round-trippers, drove in 107 runs, scored 123 others, and batted .313.

The Braves’ greatest strength continued to be their outstanding starting pitching.  Atlanta’s staff featured five starters who won at least 16 games.  Tom Glavine earned Cy Young honors for the second time in his career by going 20-6 with a 2.47 earned run average.  Greg Maddux finished 18-9, with a league-leading 2.22 ERA and five shutouts.  John Smoltz went 17-3 with a 2.90 ERA.  Kevin Millwood and Denny Neagle posted 17 and 16 victories, respectively.

While the Braves repeated as N.L. East champs, the San Diego Padres replaced San Francisco at the top of the Western Division standings, finishing 9 ½ games in front of the runner-up Giants with a record of 98-64.  The Padres rode the powerful bat of Greg Vaughn and the strong arms of Kevin Brown and Trevor Hoffman all the way to the division title.  Vaughn earned a fourth-place finish in the N.L. MVP balloting by hitting 50 home runs, knocking in 119 runs, scoring 112 others, and batting .272.  Brown finished 18-7, with a 2.38 ERA and 257 strikeouts.  Hoffman led the league with 53 saves.

San Diego subsequently advanced to the NLCS by defeating Houston in four games in their first-round playoff matchup.  After winning two of the first three contests by a single run, the Padres scored four times against Houston’s bullpen in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game Four to clinch the series with a 6-1 victory.

The Braves had an easier time with the Cubs in the other Division Series, sweeping their overmatched opponents in three straight games and outscoring them in the process by a combined margin of 15-4.  However, Atlanta ended up falling short in the postseason again, this time losing to San Diego in six games in the NLCS.

San Diego subsequently proved to be no match for the powerful Yankees in the World Series, dropping the Fall Classic in four straight games.  The Padres put up a good fight in three of the four contests, but, in the end, a Yankee team that won a record 114 games over the course of the regular season outscored them by a combined margin of 26-13.

Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:

• March 31 - The Arizona Diamondbacks dropped a 9–2 decision to the Colorado Rockies in their first game ever.

• April 5 - The Arizona Diamondbacks won their first game in franchise history, 3–2, over the San Francisco Giants.  Andy Benes got the win for the 1–5 Diamondbacks.

• June 6 – The Cincinnati Reds retired Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan’s uniform number 8 in a ceremony at Cinergy Field.

• September 5 - Mark McGwire became the third player in major league history to reach 60 home runs, as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-0.  McGwire joined Babe Ruth and Roger Maris with 60 home runs in a single season.

• September 27 - In the St. Louis Cardinals' final game of the season, Mark McGwire hit two home runs against the Montreal Expos for the second straight night, establishing a new MLB record with 70 home runs in a season.  Sammy Sosa failed to hit a home run in Chicago’s 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros, leaving him at 66 homers.  However, Chicago’s loss forced a one-game playoff with the San Francisco Giants for the National League wild card, giving Sosa one final chance to reach McGwire.

• September 27 - In the San Diego Padres' final regular season game, left fielder Greg Vaughn hit his 50th home run of the season, a career high and a San Diego Padres record for home runs in a season.  Vaughn’s blast  marked the first time in major league history that four players - Vaughn (50), Griffey (56), Sosa (66) and McGwire (70) - hit at least 50 home runs in the same season.

• September 28 - In a one-game playoff, the Chicago Cubs defeated the San Francisco Giants 5-3 to secure the final playoff spot in the National League.  For the third game in a row, the Cubs' Sammy Sosa collected two hits but failed to hit a homer, leaving him at 66 home runs for the season; four fewer than Mark McGwire, who pulled ahead of Sosa with five home runs in his final three games.

• November 30 - The Arizona Diamondbacks signed free agent Randy Johnson to a four-year contract worth approximately $50 million.

• Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn batted .500 with a homer in a losing effort against the Yankees in the World Series.

• Chicago’s Kerry Wood tied the all-time single-game record by striking out 20 Houston Astros on May 6.

• Colorado’s Larry Walker hit 23 home runs, scored 113 runs, amassed 46 doubles, and led the league with a .363 batting average.

• Rockies teammate Dante Bichette knocked in 122 runs, batted .331, and collected 219 hits.

• Colorado teammate Vinny Castilla batted .319 and placed among the league leaders with 46 home runs and 144 runs batted in.

• Sammy Sosa’s 20 home runs in June established a new all-time record for one calendar month.

• Houston's Craig Biggio became the first player since 1912 to notch 50 doubles and 50 steals in a season.

• Florida’s salary dump continued on May 15 when the Marlins sent Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, and Jim Eisenreich to the Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile.

• On May 22, the Marlins dealt Piazza to the Mets for three minor-leaguers.

• Chicago lost two broadcasting legends in one year, as both Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse passed away.

• New York’s John Olerud finished second in the league with a .354 batting average and a .447 on-base percentage.  

• Philadelphia’s Curt Schilling struck out 300 batters, en route to leading the National League in strikeouts for the second straight season.

• On August 23, Barry Bonds became the first man ever to hit 400 homers and steal 400 bases.

• Montreal's Vladimir Guerrero hit 38 home runs in his first full season.

• Pitcher Kevin Brown signed a seven-year, $105 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

• The Rockies fired Don Baylor, the club's manager since its inception, immediately after the season.

Seasons of the National League

1876 · 1877 · 1878 · 1879 · 1880 · 1881 · 1882 · 1883 · 1884 · 1885 · 1886 · 1887 · 1888 · 1889 · 1890 · 1891 · 1892 · 1893 · 1894 · 1895 · 1896 · 1897 · 1898 · 1899 · 1900 · 1901 · 1902 · 1903 · 1904 · 1905 · 1906 · 1907 · 1908 · 1909 · 1910 · 1911 · 1912 · 1913 · 1914 · 1915 · 1916 · 1917 · 1918 · 1919 · 1920 · 1921 · 1922 · 1923 · 1924 · 1925 · 1926 · 1927 · 1928 · 1929 · 1930 · 1931 · 1932 · 1933 · 1934 · 1935 · 1936 · 1937 · 1938 · 1939 · 1940 · 1941 · 1942 · 1943 · 1944 · 1945 · 1946 · 1947 · 1948 · 1949 · 1950 · 1951 · 1952 · 1953 · 1954 · 1955 · 1956 · 1957 · 1958 · 1959 · 1960 · 1961 · 1962 · 1963 · 1964 · 1965 · 1966 · 1967 · 1968 · 1969 · 1970 · 1971 · 1972 · 1973 · 1974 · 1975 · 1976 · 1977 · 1978 · 1979 · 1980 · 1981 · 1982 · 1983 · 1984 · 1985 · 1986 · 1987 · 1988 · 1989 · 1990 · 1991 · 1992 · 1993 · 1994 · 1995 · 1996 · 1997 · 1998 · 1999 · 2000 · 2001 · 2002 · 2003 · 2004 · 2005 · 2006 · 2007 · 2008 · 2009 · 2010  

Batting

TM G AB R H RBI AVG 2B 3B HR SB CS TB OBP SLG OPSLG GIDP SF SH
ARI 2178 5491 665 1353 621 .191 235 46 159 73 38 2157 .292 .323 .669 125 27 45
ATL 2197 5484 826 1489 794 .211 297 26 215 98 43 2483 .319 .323 .685 104 46 76
CHN 2366 5649 831 1494 788 .215 250 34 212 65 44 2448 .331 .348 .733 123 37 67
CIN 2280 5496 750 1441 723 .196 298 28 138 95 42 2209 .335 .273 .677 134 49 78
COL 2330 5632 826 1640 791 .193 333 36 183 67 47 2594 .385 .276 .742 148 41 98
FLO 2258 5558 667 1381 621 .175 277 36 114 115 57 2072 .321 .247 .630 121 29 70
HOU 2162 5641 874 1578 818 .234 326 28 166 155 51 2458 .362 .324 .730 146 49 58
LAN 2227 5459 669 1374 630 .173 209 27 159 137 53 2114 .293 .263 .630 98 43 91
MIL 2366 5541 707 1439 673 .168 266 17 152 81 59 2195 .314 .243 .595 135 32 61
MON 2355 5418 644 1348 602 .179 280 32 147 91 46 2133 .310 .261 .628 109 37 87
NYN 2358 5510 706 1425 671 .171 289 24 136 62 46 2170 .326 .244 .638 126 48 88
PHI 2218 5617 713 1482 672 .203 286 36 126 97 45 2218 .345 .302 .723 110 65 65
PIT 2194 5493 650 1395 613 .189 271 35 107 159 51 2057 .305 .263 .612 102 56 78
SDN 2339 5490 749 1390 715 .195 292 30 167 79 37 2243 .324 .281 .642 112 45 56
SFN 2323 5628 845 1540 800 .235 292 26 161 102 51 2367 .368 .370 .772 123 53 81
SLN 2317 5593 810 1444 781 .214 292 30 223 133 41 2465 .333 .314 .681 117 34 68

Pitching

Team G W L IP SO BB BF H HR ERA ER R GC SH SV WP BK
ARI 530 65 97 1433 908 489 6151 1463 188 228.730 738 803 7 2 37 52 14
ATL 516 106 56 1438 1232 467 5967 1291 117 87.950 520 581 24 14 45 51 3
CHN 612 90 73 1478 1207 575 6472 1528 180 141.880 738 791 7 5 56 48 14
CIN 528 77 85 1441 1098 573 6206 1400 170 141.210 711 760 6 3 42 60 7
COL 568 77 85 1429 951 562 6277 1583 174 92.570 796 855 9 2 36 46 9
FLO 582 54 108 1450 1016 715 6553 1617 182 126.020 838 914 11 0 24 62 10
HOU 502 102 60 1470 1187 465 6214 1435 147 84.440 572 620 12 7 44 50 5
LAN 504 83 79 1448 1178 587 6168 1332 135 119.840 612 678 16 6 47 46 9
MIL 578 74 88 1452 1063 550 6325 1538 188 256.080 746 812 2 0 39 48 7
MON 605 65 97 1427 1017 533 6207 1448 156 106.880 696 783 4 0 39 50 12
NYN 561 88 74 1457 1129 532 6161 1381 152 87.180 611 639 9 3 46 40 11
PHI 547 75 87 1463 1176 544 6339 1476 188 236.760 754 808 21 3 32 73 5
PIT 558 69 93 1449 1112 530 6217 1433 147 70.920 629 718 7 2 41 45 14
SDN 531 98 64 1455 1217 501 6151 1384 139 91.390 587 635 14 5 59 66 6
SFN 596 89 74 1478 1089 562 6362 1457 171 72.310 687 739 6 3 44 58 3
SLN 591 83 79 1469 972 558 6392 1513 151 122.010 706 782 6 2 44 42 14

Fielding

Team ID G TC PO A E Fld% InOuts SB CS CS% PB
ARI 2618 7276 5411 1743 122 .963 17189 93 63 1.00 9
ATL 2647 7143 5324 1717 102 .959 17263 85 40 0 13
CHN 2897 7296 5515 1656 125 .972 17725 120 43 0 7
CIN 2780 7115 5376 1588 151 .965 17297 117 46 0 10
COL 2707 7271 5312 1831 128 .978 17192 108 52 0 9
FLO 2622 7367 5436 1782 149 .973 17397 109 54 0 18
HOU 2535 7330 5382 1817 131 .965 17654 75 42 0 9
LAN 2682 7182 5268 1762 152 .967 17372 93 57 2.00 8
MIL 2775 7265 5335 1796 134 .954 17414 125 34 0 14
MON 2767 7290 5381 1722 187 .965 17125 132 64 0 18
NYN 2811 7150 5314 1713 123 .975 17494 117 64 3.00 9
PHI 2570 7273 5359 1790 124 .973 17558 87 33 0 15
PIT 2609 7268 5368 1737 163 .960 17385 95 39 0 14
SDN 2729 7182 5311 1753 118 .982 17456 94 40 0 17
SFN 2763 7368 5435 1818 115 .968 17725 97 39 1.00 13
SLN 2818 7457 5463 1820 174 .976 17630 92 44 0 6

West

team W L Att Rk SOP
San Diego Padres 98 64 2555874 1 1217
San Francisco Giants 89 74 1925364 2 1089
Los Angeles Dodgers 83 79 3089222 3 1178
Colorado Rockies 77 85 3792683 4 951
Arizona Diamondbacks 65 97 3610290 5 908

Central

team W L Att Rk SOP
Houston Astros 102 60 2458451 1 1187
Chicago Cubs 90 73 2623194 2 1207
St. Louis Cardinals 83 79 3195691 3 972
Cincinnati Reds 77 85 1793649 4 1098
Milwaukee Brewers 74 88 1811593 5 1063
Pittsburg Pirates 69 93 1560950 6 1112

East

team W L Att Rk SOP
Atlanta Braves 106 56 3360860 1 1232
New York Mets 88 74 2287948 2 1129
Philadelphia Philies 75 87 1715722 3 1176
Montreal Expos 65 97 914909 4 1017
Florida Marlins 54 108 1730384 5 1016

Awards

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Tagged:
1998 NLCS, 1998 NLDS1, 1998 NLDS2, 1998 World Series, Andres Galarraga, Atlanta Braves, Barry Bonds, Chicago Cubs, Chipper Jones, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Dante Bichette, Denny Neagle, Don Baylor, Greg Maddux, Greg Vaughn, Harry Caray, Henry Rodriguez, Houston Astros, Jack Brickhouse, Javy Lopez, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent, John Olerud, John Smoltz, Kerry Wood, Kevin Brown, Kevin Millwood, Kevin Tapani, Larry Walker, Mark Grace, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Moises Alou, Randy Johnson, Sammy Sosa, San Diego Padres, Shane Reynolds, Tom Glavine, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, Vinny Castilla, Vladimir Guerrero

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