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Cards Lose More Than Just A Game

Mark McGwire took a slight detour on his run at Roger Maris' home run record.

St. Louis lost McGwire to back spasms in the first inning, then watched light-hitting Chris Gomez homer in consecutive at-bats to help the San Diego Padres beat the Cardinals 3-2 Monday night.

McGwire said he did not expect to play in the Cardinals' three-game series at Los Angeles that begins Tuesday night.

"It's nothing to be concerned about. It probably won't be more than a few games," McGwire said.

The slugger, who leads the major leagues with 27 homers, walked off under his own power after hitting a dribbler down the first-base line in the first inning off left-hander Sterling Hitchcock (3-0).

"I took an awkward swing and I felt a twinge," he said. "I know my back like the back of my hand. I'm not going to push it. I've dealt with it every year since '89. I won't miss many games. I've done it worse," he said.

Hitchcock threw a changeup that broke down and away.

"Obviously after seeing the guys run it up at 95 (mph) over the weekend against him, that changeup had to look like an eephus or something," Hitchcock said. "With the count 3-1, he's geared up anyway.

"I guess that's the biggest obstacle to him in breaking Maris' record is just being able to stay healthy and stay in there," Hitchcock said. "And that's what going to make it so difficult to break that record."

McGwire, who set a big league record for the most home runs through the end of May, leads the NL with 68 RBIs. He was on a pace to shatter Maris' record of 61 home runs set in 1961.

The first baseman has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. He was on the disabled list in 1989 and then every season from 1992-1996 because of problems with his foot, heel, back and ribs.

Tony Gwynn doubled leading off the fifth and scored the go-ahead run on Wally Joyner's single off Todd Stottlemyre (6-5).

Trevor Hoffman got three outs for his 16th save in 16 chances.

The Cardinals got solo homers from Tom Pagnozzi and Gary Gaetti, who combined have less than a quarter the homers that McGwire does.

Pagnozzi hit his first of the season in the second and Gaetti his fifth, in the fourth.

Gomez hadn't homered in 371 at-bats, last connecting on July 2 against Seattle's Jeff Fassero, and was hitting .231 coming in. But the No. 8 hitter homered on 1-0 counts off Stottlemyre in the bottom of the second and fourth innings.

"It's been so long, and I was well aware of how long it's been," Gomez said. "I think it was last July. Enough's enough, already, geez. I'm capable of hitting a few home runs, at least."

It was the second two-homer game for Gomez, who came to the Padres in a five-player trade in on Jne 18, 1996. His first two-homer game was May 7, 1994, against Seattle.

Gaetti had missed the previous nine games with a bruised left eye. He was injured on May 21 after he failed to catch a popup in swirling winds at Philadelphia and the ball bounced off the artificial turf and hit him.

Hitchcock allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out five and walked one. Stottlemyre, who failed to last at least eight innings for the first time in five starts, allowed eight hits and three runs in six innings. He struck out seven and walked three.

San Diego loaded the bases with two out in the first, on two walks and a single, but failed to score. Joyner struck out on a pitch that bounced in the dirt. Pagnozzi, the catcher, hustled after it and threw to Stottlemyre who forced Finley at home. Finley didn't slide.

In the fifth, Joyner broke for second. Pagnozzi faked a throw, but noticed Ken Caminiti straying off third. Caminiti slipped and was caught in a rundown.

Notes: Gwynn's fifth-inning double was his 2,848th hit, tying him with Brooks Robinson for 34th on the career list. At that point, Gwynn's last five hits had all been doubles. ... The Padres activated outfielder James Mouton from the 15-day disabled list and sent Class A outfielder Rod Lindsey to the Detroit Tigers to complete the May 6 trade for right-hander Scott Sanders. ... Stottlemyre had an embarrassing moment in the second inning. He leaped to snare Quilvio Veras' chopper, but the ball stuck in the webbing of his glove. He tried to get the glove off, and thought about throwing it to first base, but had trouble getting it off.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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