Sammy Sosa was almost apologetic -- happy the Chicago Cubs won but disappointed he couldn't give a charged crowd of 40,249 what it came to see.
Mark McGwire didn't come through either as the two home-run leaders met at breezy Wrigley Field.
Putting pressure on themselves as they played face-to-face, McGwire and Sosa were a combined 0-for-9 with three strikeouts apiece during the Cubs' 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night.
"He went up there almost the same way I felt," Sosa said after he and McGwire remained tied at 47 homers each. "I was swinging so hard trying to hit the ball hard, and when you are trying to hit the ball so hard, you aren't going to make contact. They pitched me great. We pitched Mark great, too."
Sosa did hit one long ball -- a first-inning drive way over the fence in left field. But it was way foul.
"I just have to say that not every day am I going to come over here and hit a home run," Sosa said. "I hit one today. but it was foul. I wish it had stayed fair. It doesn't count.
"But that's what the fans come to the park to see -- Mark McGwire and myself. Every time we go out there, they are standing and waiting for something. I feel bad that they got me today, but I will come back and settle down."
McGwire, who was 0-for-4, fanned with two on in the ninth against Rod Beck, who relieved starter Steve Trachsel. Sosa, 0-for-5, ha struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth.
"I just missed two foul balls off Beck," said McGwire, homerless in 18 at-bats since Aug. 11 and just 26-for-115 since the All-Star break with 10 homers and 19 RBI.
"It's the best stuff I've ever seen Trachsel have," McGwire said. "He showed it."
Sosa and McGwire spoke at length of one another before the game. Sosa reiterated he's rooting for McGwire, and McGwire said Sosa's chance to break Roger Maris' record of 61 is as good as his.
As McGwire was lying in the grass, stretching and waiting for batting practice, a playful Sosa approached him, followed by a horde of TV cameras.
McGwire did his best imitation of Sosa's salute, in which he takes two fingers and blows kisses just before thumping his heart before jumping to his feet.
The two then embraced.
"I just said `Hi' and wished him good luck," Sosa said.
Chicago go three RBI from a .200-hitting catcher Scott Servais -- all on infield grounders -- and four hits from Jose Hernandez as Trachsel (13-6) won for the seventh time in eight decisions.
With runners at the corners with one out in the ninth, Beck relieved and struck out both McGwire and Ray Lankford for his 37th save as the crowd went wild. The home team won, and fans also got to see McGwire get another at-bat.
"When you have a game come down to that situation, it's almost like they want him to hit a homer anyway, but they want me to get him out, too," Beck said.
"So it's a strange situation. Everybody wants to see McGwire hit homers, everybody wants to see Sammy hit homers. I think ultimately they want to see the Cubs win."
McGwire struck out in his first two at-bats, and the first became a double play. Servais dropped the third strike, threw to first, then took the return throw from Mark Grace and tagged out Delino Deshields trying to score from third.
McGwire got under a ball on his third at-bat, sending a soaring fly into center field.
After his long foul ball, Sosa popped out before striking out in his next appearance, lining to third and then striking out again.
The Cubs used consecutive singles by Glenallen Hill, Hernandez and Lance Johnson off Kent Mercker (8-10) to go up 3-1 in the sixth, and Servais' third run-scoring grounder made it a three-run cushion.
Lankford doubled in the second, took third when Hernandez couldn't hold a relay throw from Mark Grace after a groundout and scored on Fernando Tatis' RBI single for a 1-0 lead.
Chicago tied it in the second on Servais' bases-loaded roller to first and went ahead 2-1 in the fourth on Hernandez's double, Johnson's single and Servais' grounder to shortstop.
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