(Updated Jan. 18, 2017)
In a career filled with consistent hitting versus the Cardinals, Jeff Bagwell reached a personal pinnacle when he hit for the cycle against them.
Bagwell, a first baseman, produced 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI in 15 years (1991-2005) with the Astros.
He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Jan. 18, 2017.
Many of Bagwell’s most meaningful games came against the Cardinals, who developed into the Astros’ most intense division rival.
In nine of the last 10 seasons of Bagwell’s career, 1996-2005, either the Astros or Cardinals finished in first place in the National League Central Division. In 2001, the Cardinals and Astros tied for first with 93-69 records. In 2004 and 2005, when the Cardinals won division titles, the Astros qualified for the postseason as a wild card and faced St. Louis in the NL Championship Series. The Cardinals prevailed in 2004; Houston won in 2005.
Bagwell, a right-handed batter, had more regular-season career hits (223) versus the Cardinals than he did against any other foe.
In 192 regular-season games facing St. Louis, Bagwell hit .319, with 38 home runs, 139 RBI and a .422 on-base percentage.
In 2000, when the Cardinals were division champions, Bagwell hit .463 (19-for-41) against them, with seven home runs and 18 RBI in 11 games.
His best single-game performance versus the Cardinals came the next year.
Liftoff in Houston
The Cardinals had won four in a row, holding opponents to three runs or fewer, heading into a series opener against the Astros on July 18, 2001, at Houston.
In the first inning, Bagwell hit a run-scoring single off starter Mike Matthews. He flied out to center in the third.
The Cardinals scored six times in the fifth and led, 8-6.
Sparked by Bagwell, the Astros rallied for eight runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Bagwell led off the fifth with a double against Luther Hackman. After the Astros scored five times, Bagwell capped the inning with a three-run home run off Gene Stechschulte.
That meant Bagwell needed a triple to complete the cycle for the only time in his big-league career. He’d tripled just once (at Chicago) at that point in the season.
In the seventh, with Craig Biggio on third base and one out, Bagwell faced Andy Benes. “My only concern was getting that run home (from third),” Bagwell told the Houston Chronicle.
Bagwell lined a deep shot to right-center field.
“That’s probably the only place you can hit a triple in this park, for a right-hander,” Biggio said.
Bagwell rounded second _ “I was kind of laboring. I wasn’t going very fast,” he said _ and beat the throw to third.
“It worked out where I got a triple and got the cycle,” said Bagwell, “but a base hit up the middle would have been nice, too.” Boxscore
Bagwell became the fourth Houston player _ and the first since Andujar Cedeno on Aug. 25, 1992, versus the Cardinals Boxscore _ to hit for the cycle. The other Astros to do so were Cesar Cedeno and Bob Watson.
“I’m jealous,” Astros outfielder Moises Alou said to the Associated Press. “I’ve never even hit for the cycle when I played softball.’
Bagwell, who drew a walk while facing Dave Veres in the eighth, finished the game 4-for-5 with five RBI and four runs scored.
“It’s cool,” Bagwell said, “but it’s not something I put much stock in.”