Mark McGwire had to wait until the San Diego Padres got into their bullpen before he got a home run.
Padres starter Joey Hamilton, frustrated that his name has come up in trade talks, limited McGwire to a two-run double that broke a scoreless tie in the eighth.
But McGwire hit a two-run homer in the ninth off reliever Dan Miceli as the St. Louis Cardinals scored all their runs in the final two innings to beat the Padres 8-3 Friday night.
McGwire's major league-leading 26th homer was his first in three games, but the slugger didn't think it was going to leave the park.
"I thought it was going to be a fly ball to left field," said McGwire, whose four RBIs gave him a major league-leading 65.
McGwire was highly complimentary of Hamilton, who is beginning to wonder about his future in San Diego. Hamilton (3-6) struck out a career-high 11 but ended up with his career-high fifth straight loss.
"He was very impressive," said McGwire, who tipped his cap to Hamilton after one of his two strikeouts. "He was flat out nasty."
"He doesn't throw the slow curveball any more," McGwire said. "He throws a real hard sinker that goes in, out, up, down, and he throws a nice tight slider."
But Hamilton, who won a $3.25 million salary in arbitration this year, is wondering how much longer he'll pitch for San Diego. The team leader in victories in three of the last four seasons, Hamilton reportedly was included in recent trade discussions with the Seattle Mariners regarding Randy Johnson.
"In the five years that I've been here, this is the first really bad time I've gone through," Hamilton said. "I love San Diego. I'd like to stay in San Diego. But it's apparent that any long-term plans here are not really reasonable."
McGwire's homer came on an 0-1 pitch from Miceli with one out in the ninth and Delino DeShields on base after third baseman Ken Caminiti's two-base error.
McGwire hit a bases-loaded double in the eighth, when the Cardinals sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs on four hits and four walks.
John Mabry and Royce Clayton hit consecutive two-run singles with two out in the eighth.
Hamilton got Tom Pagnozzi swinging for his 11th strikeout leading off the eighth, but then allowed a single to Cardinals starter Mark Petkovsek and consecutive walks to Ron Gant and Delino DeShields. McGwire, who had struck out in his previous two at-bats, hit an 0-1 pitch into the left-center gap.
After Hamilton intentionally walked Ray Lankford, he was replaced by Brian Boehringer, who gave up the two-run singles to Mabry and Clayton.
Hamilton allowed five runs and four hits in 7 1-3 innings and walked five. He hasn't won since May 2 at Florida.
Petkovsek (3-1), usually a eliever, got his first win in five starts this year and improved his lifetime record against San Diego to 7-0. He allowed four hits in eight shutout innings, striking out five and walking two.
The Padres scored all of their runs in the ninth off reliever Kent Bottenfield on a two-run homer to Greg Vaughn, his 17th, and an RBI single by Caminiti.
Notes: Hamilton's strikeouts were the most by a Padres' pitcher since Andy Ashby fanned 11 against Colorado on Sept. 17. ... Hamilton previously had struck out 10 batters three times, most recently on Aug. 18, 1996, against the New York Mets in Monterrey, Mexico. ... McGwire hit two batting-practice homers into the second deck in left field. Last year, before the first of two A's-Padres interleague games here last year, McGwire hit seven into the second deck. ... The Padres fielded their regular starting lineup for the first time since May 1. Ken Caminiti had missed 21 games with a strained quadriceps and Wally Joyner missed the last five starts with a strained hamstring. ... Tom Pagnozzi has thrown out five of the last seven base stealers, including San Diego's Steve Finley in the first inning, after starting the season 0-for-7.
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