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Big Mac Is Back - Has 2 Blasts

Just like last year, Mark McGwire is off to a fast start.

McGwire, who homered in each of the St. Louis Cardinals' first four games of the regular season last year, hit his second in three at-bats this spring during the St. Louis Cardinals' 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Monday.

To say he's not impressed by his first few exhibition games is an understatement.

"I don't know how it's supposed to go," McGwire said. "See the ball and hit it, that's about it."

McGwire is 2-for-4 and has reached base four times in six plate appearances, including a walk and a hit by pitch. He hit his first homer Sunday off Montreal Expos rookie Ted Lilly, then connected off Lima, who gave up Sammy Sosa's 66th and final home run last year.

After playing three innings Monday, McGwire didn't know if he's had a better spring start. And he didn't care.

"You don't rate that," he said. "Hey guys, this is spring training."

McGwire's fourth-inning drive on an 0-2 pitch from Jose Lima wasn't one of his usual majestic, towering clouts. Still, the only suspense was whether it would stay fair.

McGwire, still in the spotlight after his record 70 homers last year, was terse when talking about himself but opened up a little when he talked about the death of Joe DiMaggio.

"Obviously, it's a big loss," he said. "He was one of the best in the game. I wish I got to know him; I never got to meet him. It's a big loss for the game and for life in general."

Lima gave up one home run to McGwire last season, No. 32 on June 17 at Houston. Lima's scheduled start Sunday was postponed due to shoulder soreness and he worked only one inning in his first spring appearance.

Among the 34 homers surrendered by Lima last year were three by Sammy Sosa. Sosa hit two in one game and then connected for his 66th homer against Lima on Sept. 25.

Reynolds, making his second spring start, allowed one hit in three scoreless innings for Houston. Cardinals starter Kent Bottenfield gave up four hits in two scoreless innings.

A throwing error by pitcher Manny Aybar helped the Astros tie it in the fifth as Pedro Lopez got the RBI on a fielder's choice. A sacrifice fly by Ken Caminiti made it 2-1 in the sixth and Doug Henry, the sixth Houston pitcher, worked the ninth for his first spring save.


Chad Hutchinson , the Cardinals' second-round pick last season, had five strikeouts and didn't allow a hit in a three-inning stint in a "B" game against the Montreal Expos. ... Center fielder Ray Lankford , recovering from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery, may make his spring debut Thursday against the Royals in Haines City.

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