This time, Sammy Sosa's lead in the home-run derby lasted only 45 minutes.
McGwire and Sosa have homered on the same day 21 times, and as usual McGwire said it was just a coincidence.
"We don't have any control over it," McGwire said. "We get in the box and he has to battle, I have to battle. It's one of those things that's unexplainable, so let's leave it unexplainable."
Also as usual, McGwire reiterated he didn't care who won the home-run derby.
"What he and I have done, whoever's on top nobody should be disappointed," McGwire said. "How can you walk away disappointed if you walk away one below? You can't. It's impossible."
Rookie J.D. Drew had a pair of two-run homers for the Cardinals, who have won 10 of 12 to guarantee a winning record. But the focus was all on McGwire and the deadlocked home-run derby, which has two games to go.
Manager Tony LaRussa has stressed team performance all year, even after McGwire broke Roger Maris' record Sept. 8. Not anymore.
| Mark McGwire connects on No. 66 only 45 minutes after Sammy Sosa's 66th. (AP) |
"As far as I'm concerned, Mark McGwire's home-run chase is the most important thing the next two days," La Russa said. "It's like heresy for me to say it, but he deserves everything we've got behind him and he's going to get every little bit w do."
When Sosa took the lead in the home-run derby for only the second time all season leading off the fourth at Houston, it prompted a collective groan from a sellout crowd at Busch Stadium and booing when Sosa's home-run number was changed on the scoreboard.
McGwire said he doesn't watch the scoreboard, but he was aware of it.
"Of course, how can you not?" McGwire said. "It's pretty obvious."
With a runner on first, two outs and the fans on their feet, McGwire brought back the cheers when he hit a 1-2 pitch an estimated 375 feet into the left-field stands. It was McGwire's second homer this year against Montreal and first since he connected off Trey Moore on April 21.
On the first pitch from
"False alarm," McGwire said with a grin. "The guy was trigger-happy."
Bennett thought he'd escaped.
"It was quite funny," Bennett said. "I looked at him and he was giving it the look-see. He looked at me as if it was really foul and I gave the little inch signal as if to say by that much."
But the fans didn't have to wait long for the real thing.
Bennett, who is from Australia, wasn't at all upset about his place in history.
"I came to America on vacation, now I gave up the 66th," Bennett joked. "I never should have stayed. He didn't even hit it on the good part of the bat; if he did it wouldn't gone out of the stadium."
Sosa led the home-run race for 58 minutes Aug. 19 before McGwire regained the lead with his 48th and 49th homers later in the same game at Chicago. Sosa tied McGwie at 65 with two home runs Wednesday at Milwaukee, snapping an 0-for-21 slump.
Before connecting, McGwire had been 2-for-11 on the homestand with a pair of singles and hadn't homered in 14 at-bats. He extended his NL record to 161 walks on a full count in the first and lined out to left in the third against Miguel Batista (3-6) and singled off rookie Kirk Bullinger to lead off the seventh.
McGwire and Sosa each have two games left, with McGwire's at home against the Expos and Sosa's on the road against the Astros. McGwire faces right-hander Dustin Hermanson (14-11) Saturday while Sosa faces right-hander Shane Reynolds (19-8).
Expos manager Felipe Alou suspects McGwire may hit a few more off his largely inexperienced staff.
"We don't have Greg Maddux here who can pinpoint a fastball on the corner every time," Alou said. "We have kids. We have Mike Maddux."
The lastest homer was No. 453 of McGwire's career, putting him in 20th place ahead of Carl Yastrzemski. He has hit 176 homers the last three seasons.
In 204 career games with the Cardinals, McGwire has 90 homers, 182 RBI and 204 walks. He has 47 homers and 95 RBIs in 104 career games at Busch Stadium.
Drew, the Cardinals' first-round draft pick, has five homers and 12 RBIs since joining the team Sept. 8. That was the day McGwire broke Maris' record with his 62nd homer.
Rookie Jose Jimenez (3-0) allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings and Juan Acevedo finished for his 14th save.
Bob Henley had four hits and three RBI for Montreal, including a two-run double in the eighth that cut the gap to 6-5.
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