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Mac Hits 55th In Cards Win


Mark McGwire swears it's just coincidence the way he keeps trumping Sammy Sosa.

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    Forum: Who will hit 61 first, Sosa or McGwire?

  • after Sosa connected for his 54th home run, McGwire hit No. 55 to regain the major-league lead Sunday night in an 8-7 victory over the Atlanta Braves. His last three homers have come on the same day as Sosa has homered.

    But no, the St. Louis Cardinals' slugger insisted, there was no extra incentive.

    "I've said this time and time again," McGwire said. "I only can take care of Mark McGwire, period.

    "This is not a challenge, this is not a race to whatever, we don't get an Oscar at the end, for like best actor. He takes care of himself, I take care of myself and wherever the chips fall at the end of the season, that's where it is."

    McGwire said he didn't know Sosa had homered until manager Tony La Russa told him before the game. He also said it would be great if both he and Sosa finish with more than 60 homers.

    "I'm extremely happy for him," McGwire said. "He's having a magical year, a way better year than I'm having. His team is right there in the wild-card race, he's driven in quite a few more runs than I have and hit for higher average."

    McGwire

    Mark McGwire
    Big Mac was given a meatball from Dennis Martinez, and it wound up flying over 500 feet to center field. (AP)
    said his three-run, 501-foot shot in the seventh inning was special mostly because it capped the Cardinals' comeback from an early six-run deficit.

    "They always feel good," he said. "But it even feels better when you win a ballgame the way we did against, if not the best, one of the best teams in the National League."

    McGwire's homer off Atlanta reliever Dennis Martinez was one of his three hits and came one day after he was ejected for arguing a called third strike in the first inning. The ejection, his first since joining the Cardinals last year, sparked a noisy game-long demonstration from usually placid Busch Stadium fans.

    McGwire, who is within one of tying Hack Wilson's NL record, has 26 games remaining to break Roger Maris' record of 61 homers in 1961. Fifteen of those games are at Busch Stadium, where he has hit 29 homers to obliterate the previous record of 17.

    McGwire celebrates with teammate Brian Jordan.(AP)

    Civility returned to the stadium Sunday, with fans following the suggestion of Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck and giving the umpires a standing ovation when they made their first appearance.

    The Braves hit four homers, including two by Andres Galarraga. Center fielder Ray Lankford robbed Atlanta of a fifth when he leaped high above the wall to snare Tony Graffanino's bid for a third homer in the second inning.

    McGwire's first homer in four games came on 1-0 pitch from Martinez (3-6) and disappeared over the backdrop beyond the center-field wall. It was his fifth 500-foot-plus homer at Busch this season and the crowd of 44,051 demanded -- and got -- a curtain call.

    Mark McGwire
    Big Mac's hold on the major-league home-run lead is now all his own. (AP)

    "That was a bomb," Martinez said. "That wasn't the first one I've given up and it won't be the last. Good for him."

    It marked the fourth time in the last two weeks, the seventh time in five weeks and the 18th time this season McGwire and Sosa have homered on the same day.

    Mark Petkovsek (7-4) allowed one hit in two scoreless innings. Juan Acevedo pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

    Braves pitching ha McGwire under control before Sunday, holding him to 4-for-27 with one homer and one RBI. Against Kevin Millwood, he drew his major league-leading 141st walk in the first, singled and scored in the fourth and doubled and scored in the fifth to give him a career-high 105 runs scored.

    McGwire's 509-foot homer Wednesday night made him the first NL player since Ralph Kiner in 1949 to hit 54 homers. Now, he's one homer away from Wilson's mark set in 1930, the year Wilson drove in a major-league record 190 runs.

    Mark McGwire
    Big Mac salutes the fans after hitting No. 55. (AP)

    Galarraga homered to lead off the second and hit a three-run shot, his 42nd, off Donovan Osborne in the third to give the Braves a 6-0 lead. All but one of Galarraga's eight two-homer games this season have come on the road.

    Andruw Jones added his 24th home run, a two-run shot in the second, and Javy Lopez hit his 30th with the bases empty off John Frascatore in the fifth for Atlanta, which leads the NL with 184 homers.

    Sunday's game was incident-free, a marked contrast to all the foul balls, soft-drink bottles, popcorn tins and various other objects tossed on the field after rookie umpire Sam Holbrook gave McGwire the boot Saturday.

    During pre-game ceremonies to unveil a bronze bust in his likeness, Buck asked fans to "give them a standing ovation and show them St. Louis is the best baseball town in America."

    And that's what the umpires got from a crowd of 44,051 and home-plate umpire Harry Wendlestedt, the crew chief, tipped his cap in appreciation.

    "That's an example of Jack Buck's genius," La Russa said. "That set the tone for a magical night."

    The Cardinals also scored twice in the fourth on a single by Fernando Tatis and a run-scoring groundout by Luis Ordaz, Lankford had a two-run single in the fifth, pinch-hitter Placido Polanco had an RBI single in the sixth.

    Notes

  • McGwire has a career-high 119 RBI, one more than he got in 1987 for Oakland.
  • Galarraga is 9-for-18 with three homers for his career against Osborne. He had a 14-game hitting streak ended Saturday.
  • Despite the loss, the Braves are 6-3 against the Cardinals this year and 27-10 since Aug. 20, 1995.
  • Ozzie Guillen is 1-for-14 against St. Louis pitching this season and 2-for-22 for his career.

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