To expedite matters, Giants reliever Jeff Brantley reminded Clark on Saturday that the Thrill hadn't hit a home run in 124 at bats, his longest drought in the majors. Clark, who is hitting .293 with 71 RBIs, was intensely aware of the statistic, thank you, and a little touchy whenever asked about it. "O.K.," Clark sighed. "I'm gonna hit one tonight."
"He only calls them like that once in a while," says Brantley, who watched Clark pass on three pitches in the first inning before drilling his 15th home run of the season, off Reds starter Jose Rijo.
Rijo prudently walked Clark in the fifth with the Giants leading 2-1. Then Kevin Mitchell dribbled a grounder to second baseman Mariano Duncan, who flipped the ball to shortstop Barry Larkin, who in turn was taken out at second by the runaway Clark. When the dust settled, Clark was called out and Larkin lay writhing on the ground—he wouldn't get up for five minutes—with what was later diagnosed as a mild hyperextension of the left knee. Larkin finished the inning and even doubled in the bottom half of it. But when he had difficulty running out the hit, he was removed from the lineup for Oester.
By the time Clark scaled the Giants' 4-2 win with an RBI sacrifice fly in the ninth, Nuxhall had, with great success, urged radio-toting Reds fans to boo Clark roundly. Nuxhall then picked Giants catcher Gary Carter, a great sound bite who did little of note, as his hero of the game. After all, Nuxhall has to interview that honoree.
At least Larkin, a friend of Clark's and his roommate at the 1984 Olympics, waited to watch the tape before pronouncing Clark out of line for beginning his assault well beyond second base. But Larkin wrongly accused Clark of not sliding at all and declared that he, Larkin, would never "jump over the bag to get someone."
"I didn't slide?" shrieked Will the Shrill in the other clubhouse. "How in hell did my uniform get dirty then?"
Amid this lobbing of verbal grenades, the Reds had a few of their own go off in the clubhouse. "Quit complaining," was Rijo's advice to his teammates.
"If we're gonna complain about a runner running into one of ours, we can run into one of theirs," said Piniella, who deliberately held his postgame chat with reporters in the middle of the clubhouse instead of his office so that his players could overhear it. "If it takes running into somebody out there, that's what it takes. That's the way I used to play. Evidently, that's the way Will Clark plays."
Larkin, not exactly being backed by his buddies on this one, announced on Sunday, like a vigilant NFL official, that he had had a chance to see a videotape of the play yet again—from another angle, no doubt. "I think it was an aggressive slide," Larkin said upon reflection. "When you're on the bad end of a collision like that, you don't appreciate it. And I didn't appreciate it." This concession was probably more painful to Larkin than the root canal work he had undergone on the Reds' last trip to San Francisco.
Limping back into the lineup on Sunday, Larkin, whose .310 average was seventh in the league, doubled in his first at bat, driving in the first of Cincinnati's four first-inning runs off Giants starter Scott Garrelts. Garrelts, you may remember, threw a no-hitter for 8? innings against the Reds on July 29. But he hasn't been the same since sprinting head-first into a metal door frame while warming up for a pinch-running assignment behind the Giants' dugout on Aug. 4.