Ray Lankford turned a miserable performance into a memorable one Saturday, following five strikeouts with two big hits in the St. Louis Cardinals' 9-8, 13-inning win over the Chicago Cubs.
Lankford's heroics -- a two-out, game-tying homer in the 11th and a game-winning single in the 13th -- overshadowed homers by both men chasing Roger Maris' record. Mark McGwire hit his major-league-leading 46th homer leading off the fourth. And Sammy Sosa tied the game in the ninth with a two-run shot, his 44th.
"I've never seen anything like it," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
"It's one of the greatest games I've ever been associated with," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said. "They thought they had it and we came back. We thought we had it and they came back."
McGwire went 1-for-3 with four walks, giving him 119 on the season. Two of the walks were intentional, giving him 26. Sosa was 2-for-5 with a walk.
McGwire's homer ended a 29 at-bat drought, his longest of the season. He needs 15 homers to tie Maris' record of 61 set in 1961. The Cardinals have 47 games remaining. Chicago has 45 games left.
"Why is everybody so worried about this?," McGwire asked. "There are more important things to worry about than Mark McGwire hitting home runs. Let's talk about the game."
It was worth talking about.
After Sosa's ninth-inning blast tied it 5-5, the Cubs seemed on their way to breaking a two-game losing streak when Tyler Houston hit a two-run homer in the 11th off reliever Curtis King.
But Chicago shortstop Jeff Blauser let Brian Jordan's one-out grounder go under his glove in the bottom of the inning. McGwire struck out, bringing up Lankford.
At that point, Lankford's hadn't put the ball in play -- he was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts, tying a team record set by Dick Allen in 1970.
"He told me he was swinging like he had a hole in his bat," La Russa said.
But Lankford hit an opposite-field shot off Rod Beck to left field to tie the game.
Again, the Cubs took the lead in the 12th on a single by Sosa, his league-leading 114th RBI of the season.
Again, the Cardinals answered. This time, catcher Eli Marrero homered off Beck.
In the 13th, reliever Dave Stevens (1-1), the Cubs' seventh pitcher, walked Pat Kelly, who stole second and went to third on Brian Jordan's single. McGwire was walked intentionally, and the Cubs brought center fielder Lance Johnson in as a fifth infielder. But Lankford slapped a single well to Johnson's right.
Bobby Witt (2-3), the eighth Cardinals pitcher, pitched one inning for the win.
The Cubs got one run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Scott Servais. In the fourth, Jose Hernandez hit a two-run homer, his 17th, off St. Louis starter Donovan Osborne, pitching for the first time after missing three months with a strained left shoulder. Osborne pitched five innings, allowing three runs on three hits.
McGwire's homer in the fourth off starter Mark Clark, and Luis Ordaz's RBI single in the fifth made it 3-2. The Cardinals batted around for three runs in the seventh, with RBI hits from Pat Kelly, Brian Jordan and Ron Gant.
Reliever Rich Croushore walked Mark Grace to lead off the ninth, and Sosa hit a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left-center field. The Cubs then twice took leads in extra innings, only to have Beck, their closer, blow both of them.
Clark pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on nine hits.
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