Dave Burba pitched a season-high 7 2/3 innings and Jim Thome recorded his second two-homer game in six days as the Cleveland Indians overcame another home run by Mark McGwire to win their fifth straight game, 8-2 over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Burba (9-5) allowed two runs and six hits with four strikeouts and a walk, while matching his season high in innings, set on May 28th at Toronto. The right-hander won at home for the first time since May 22nd and improved to 4-4 in 18 career outings versus the Cardinals.
Paul Shuey replaced Burba with a man at first and two out in the eighth and got McGwire to line out to shortstop Omar Vizquel to preserve Cleveland's 4-2 lead. Jose Mesa worked a 1-2-3 ninth as the Indians improved to 7-3 in interleague play this year.
"Dave (Burba) said he wasn't scared of him (McGwire)," said Indians manager Mike Hargrove of his decision to take out Burba. "I said me neither, but lets get Shuey to face him."
Thome snapped a 2-2 tie in the fifth with a two-run homer and added a solo shot, his 21st, to ignite a four-run eighth inning. It was his ninth career two-homer performance, including belting two and driving in three runs in Friday's 7-4 triumph over the New York Yankees.
"My first two at-bats didn't feel good," said Thome. "The first homer, he (Aybar) threw me one outside and I hit to left-center. On the second homer, (Bobby) Witt threw a pitch up over the plate. It was late in the game and I was ust trying to drive it."
McGwire did not wait long to hit his major league-leading 35th homer, launching a 461-foot blast to left field with two outs in the first inning. It was his ninth career homer at Jacobs Field, snapping a tie with Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox and Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers for the most by an Indians' opponent.
"No comment (on the homer), we lost," said McGwire. "It's not good losing and it's not fun losing. We were on a roll and then we seemed to hit a brick wall. We just didn't play well these last two games. Nobody likes two-game series and there's no reason for it. There was just no thinking behind interleague play."
"I thought it was a foul ball at first," said Burba. "I turned to look for a new ball and I saw (catcher Sandy) Alomar standing there staring. I turned to take a look, but I didn't see it. I just shook it off and went on. I'm going to challenge him. I'm not going to back down for anybody."
McGwire has 11 solo homers this year and four in the first inning.
"It was amazing," said Vizquel. "I felt sorry for Dave Burba. But it was really fun to watch a ball travel that far. It looked like it was never going to land."
Manny Aybar (3-4), attempting to win his second straight start since returning to the rotation, gave up four runs and six hits in six innings. He suffered his first loss since May 18th against Florida and his first road setback since April 13th at San Francisco.
"Manny pitched well," said Cards manager Tony La Russa. "He gave us an outstanding chance to win. He made a few mistakes and the Indians took advantage of them."
Cleveland evened the score at 1-1 in the third as Kenny Lofton drew a two-out walk and came around to score after consecutive singles by Vizquel and Dave Justice.
Travis Fryman gave the Tribe the lead the following inning when he doubled in Manny Ramirez, but John Mabry knotted the score at 2-2 in the bottom half with his fifth home run. The Cards attempted to take the lead one out later on Brian Hunter's single, but Gary Gaetti was thrown out at the plate.
Thome gave the Indians the lead for good with his two-run blast in the fifth before Cleveland tacked on four more runs in the eighth. Thome launched a 436-foot homer with one ot before Ramirez walked and Sandy Alomar singled him to third.
St. Louis has dropped three straight games after winning five in a row. The Cards fell to 2-5 against the American League this season and 1-4 versus Cleveland over the last two years.
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