Even with a bad back, Mark McGwire is hitting home runs.
One pitch after feeling pain in his back, McGwire hit his 35th and moved within one of major league leader Sammy Sosa, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Colorado Rockies 6-4 Sunday for a three-game sweep.
"The back tightened up pretty good," McGwire said. "I didn't know what I was going to do other than just throw my hands at the ball, and it went out of the ballpark."
After hitting his second homer in 13 at-bats at Coors Field, McGwire came out of the game because of the back pain, which recently sidelined him for two games.
You couldn't tell he's hurting from his stats. McGwire has eight homers in 11 games and 12 homers in July. His 492nd homer left him one behind Lou Gehrig, who is 16th on the career list.
Larry Luebbers (1-1) allowed two runs and five hits in five innings to win his first major league game since July 8, 1993, for Cincinnati against the Chicago Cubs. Luebbers, recalled from Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday, walked two and struck out none.
At 50-49, the Cardinals moved above .500 for the first time since they were 29-28 on June 7. St. Louis is 4-0 under acting manager Rene Lachemann, running the team while Tony La Russa recovers from a stomach ailment.
"We played some good baseball in the series in a place that is a manager's nightmare," Lachemann said. "We got some key hits today and a home run from McGwire that I thought was hit hard, but not high enough to have a chance to go out."
Eli Marrero, a .202 hitter, drove in two runs with an infield grounder and a single. J.D. Drew and Ray Lankford had two hits and an RBI each.
Manny Aybar pitched 2 2-3 innings for his third save, allowing Larry Walker's 29th homer in the ninth. Walker went 3-for-3 with two RBIs to raise his average to .373.
"We couldn't get a killer hit at any time," Colorado manager Jim Leylansaid. "We couldn't get one to keep an inning going and we couldn't get one to knock in a run."
Pedro Astacio (10-9) gave up six runs, eight hits and five walks in seven innings.
"I left some pitches up in the zone with two outs and paid for it," Astacio said. "McGwire hit a good pitch hard, and whenever he hits one hard it has a good chance to go out."
Edgar Renteria's bases-loaded walk put St. Louis ahead in the first, and Ray Lankford hit an RBI double off the right-field foul line in the third. Marrero had a run-scoring groundout in the fourth.
Colorado closed to 3-2 on Dante Bichette's RBI double in the fourth and Walker's run-scoring single in the fifth.
Marrero and Drew hit RBI singles with two outs in the sixth.
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