Russ Ortiz was so dominant, Mark McGwire couldn't even remember this was the same pitcher he faced last year.
"When a pitcher pitches a great game, everybody wants to know what's wrong with the hitting. My God, the guy pitched a great game," said McGwire, whose 28th home run was not enough to beat Ortiz in the San Francisco Giants' 4-2 victory over St. Louis on Saturday.
When asked how Ortiz (11-5) looked Saturday compared to his obscure rookie season last year, McGwire insisted he had never faced him before.
Last year, McGwire was 0-for-1 against Ortiz, who remembered it well.
"He's so strong, you can probably jam him and he'll still hit it out," said Ortiz, who settled down after McGwire's first-inning home run to allow just one other hit Fernando Tatis' 18th home run in the seventh.
Ortiz came within one out of his second straight complete game, but walked McGwire on four pitches with Tatis due up in the ninth.
"He gets stronger as the game goes on, and he smells the finish line," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "But when he walked Big Mac on four straight pitches, he hadn't done that all day long. I figured it was time to go get him."
John Johnstone, who picked up his second save in place of injured closer Robb Nen, caught Tatis looking at a third strike to end it.
"He (Ortiz) did all he had to do," St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa said. "He used his fastball on both sides of the plate. And he's got a breaking ball. It was quality pitching."
McGwire hit his 485th career homer and scored his 1,000th career run.
The Giants won for the 10th time in 12 games, extending their lead in the NL West to a season-high 3@1/2 games over Arizona.
"It's not too early," Baker said. "We're past the halfway point and there's 78 games to go. Of course, I look at them from the first day of the season."
Ortiz has a 1.6 ERA in his last three starts, all victories.
The Cardinals led 1-0 when the Giants rallied to go ahead in the fourth against Jose Jimenez (5-9), who started off with three hitless innings.
F.P. Santangelo drew a leadoff walk and J.T. Snow grounded into a force play. After a wild pitch sent Snow to second, Jeff Kent was hit by a pitch, and both runners moved up on Jimenez's second wild pitch of the inning.
Stan Javier's RBI groundout made it 1-all and Bill Mueller hit a go-ahead single.
It was the type of rally the Giants needed, with sluggers Barry Bonds and Ellis Burks resting nagging injuries on the bench.
"I'd like to sit back and watch people hit the ball out of the park," Baker said, "but you have to play with the type of team you have out there that day. You have to play according to your personnel."
Brent Mayne doubled to lead off the fifth and scored on Santangelo's two-out single. Javier gave the Giants an insurance run in the eighth with an RBI single off Ricky Bottalico.
Jimenez pitched seven innings, allowed three runs and three hits.
"Jimenez pitched a winning type of game," LaRussa said. "Ortiz pitched better."
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed