Mark McGwire is finally on the record about the record.
"I'd have to say that I do have a shot," he said. "But I know it's going to be tough."
Start the countdown at 11.
Mark McGwire is quickly closing in on Roger Maris, and with two more home runs Thursday night he gave baseball fans more reason to believe this is the year.
In the first game, McGwire became the first player in history to hit 50 home runs in three consecutive seasons with a high drive in the seventh inning of the Cardinals' 2-0 win.
McGwire wasted no time hitting No. 51, connecting in the first inning of the second game, but St. Louis blew a three-run lead and lost 5-4.
Since spring training, McGwire has been hounded by questions asking whether he or anyone else could break baseball's most hallwed record. He's maintained all along that getting to 50 early would be the key.
|McGwire celebrates as he rounds the bases after his 50th home run(AP)|
"That's what I truly believe," he said Thursday afternoon. "Ever since I was a young kid hitting home runs. I mean if someone gets to 50 by September 1, they have a shot down the stretch run."
If McGwire believes, then so should everyone else. After all, he hit 15 homers last September for St. Louis.
Brian Jordan homered in both games for the Cardinals.
|Cubs OF Sammy Sosa has 48 HRs through 127 games (through games of Thursday, August 20, 1998).|
Mike Piazza hit a two-run homer in the second game for New York, which rallied to win with two runs in the seventh. Rey Ordonez hit an RBI double to tie it against Darren Oliver (1-2) and Tony Phillips brought in the go-ahead run with a groundout.
The Mets, who were playing their second of three doubleheaders this week, lead Chicago by one-half game for the wild card. The Cubs beat San Francisco 7-3 Thursday.
After Jordan led off the seventh inning of the first game with a homer off Willie Blair (4-16), McGwire made history by sending a 2-1 pitch over the wall in left-center. McGwire pumped his right fist above his head as he rounded first base as the Shea Stadium crowd of 40,308 saluted him wit a rousing standing ovation.
|McGwire watches his record 51st home run fly over the wall in game two (AP)|
Only Babe Ruth (1920-21 and 1927-28) and McGwire had hit 50 or more homers in back-to-back seasons before McGwire's 369-foot shot. McGwire hit 52 homers in 1996 for Oakland and 58 for the A's and Cardinals last year.
"It's nice to be a part of major league history, and to have done so in such a historic baseball city as New York," McGwire said in a statement. "Ironically, I broke Babe Ruth's record just across town from the stadium he played in."
In the first inning of the second game against Rick Reed (15-7), McGwire lined a 3-2 pitch into the left-field seats for No. 51. It was his fourth homer in three games. He hit Nos. 48 and 49 on Wednesday in Chicago.
With McGwire in town and their club in the NL wild-card chase, Mets fans came out early to see batting practice, two games for the price of one and a little history.
|Teammates greet McGwire after he hit his 51st HR of the year in game two |
They cheered McGwire during batting practice and most of them kept it up when he came to the plate in the game. Only a couple of wise guys behind home plate chanted "So-sa, So-sa," referring to the Cubs' Sammy Sosa, who has 48 homers.
Donovan Osborne (3-2) shut out the Mets on four hits in eight innings. The left-hander allowed just a pair of walks through five innings before Phillips flared a single to left with one out in the sixth. One out later, Matt Franco grounded a single to right, but Osborne worked out of the jam by striking out Piazza.
Former Met Juan Acevedo pitched the ninth for his third save.
Blair didn't look like a pitcher who now leads the major leagues in losses. The right-hander gave up three hits -- two homers -- and two runs in seven innings.
McGwire, who earlier this season hit his 400th homer here off Reed, is the sixth NL player to hit 50 in a season and first since George Foster hit 52 in 1977 for Cincinnati.
The milestone ball was caught by fan Mike Scelsi, 31, of Yonkers, N.Y.
"I was in the right place at the right time. I'm a happy guy," said Scelsi, who was offered $10,000 for the ball.
"I want to talk to Mr. McGwire to see what he wants to do," he said.
Reed allowed six hits and four runs in seven innings with nine strikeouts.
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