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BASEBALL EXTRA | ROUNDUP

McGwire's 54th Is Big Blow to Pirates

September 20, 1997|From Associated Press

Mark McGwire made his race interesting but dealt the Pittsburgh Pirates a big blow in theirs, hitting his 54th home run to help the St. Louis Cardinals win, 6-5, in 11 innings Friday at Pittsburgh.

His drive deep into the left-field seats tied the score, 5-5, in the sixth. Rookie Eli Marrero won it with his second homer of the season--a leadoff drive in the 11th off Rich Loiselle (1-5).

"This guy has something special. With him, you never say never," Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa said. "It all depends on how they [other teams] pitch him. They're not going to say, 'Here, hit me.' "

McGwire, who went one for five, is one homer ahead of Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr., who also homered Friday, and needs seven homers in his final nine games to tie Roger Maris' record of 61, set in 1961.

Until McGwire did it, the closest any player came to hitting 20 homers in the same season for two teams was Fred McGriff, who hit 37 in 1993--18 with San Diego and 19 with Atlanta.

"Had anybody ever done it? I didn't know that," said McGwire, who has 20 homers in 143 at-bats despite starting two for 27 with St. Louis. "I just remember Tony telling me after I came off that first road trip, 'Take a deep breath and relax and you might hit 20.' I didn't know if I could do it, but that stuck in my mind."

McGwire, playing in Three Rivers Stadium for the first time, hit a 2-0 changeup from Pittsburgh's Steve Cooke 10 rows back for his 20th homer in 42 games since joining St. Louis, which acquired him from Oakland on July 31. He had 34 with the Athletics.

The 54 homers is the most in a season since 1961, when Maris set the record and Yankees teammate Mickey Mantle hit 54.

Atlanta 2, Montreal 1--John Smoltz danced as well as he pitched.

Smoltz threw a five-hitter as the Braves won at Atlanta, lowering their magic number for clinching the NL East to four.

And the usually reserved pitcher taunted Montreal's Carlos Perez when he struck him out in the third inning by imitating the dance the Expos left-hander does when he strikes out a hitter.

"I've been wanting to do that for a long time," Smoltz said, laughing. "It was all in good fun. I think everybody got a kick out of it."

Perez said he did not see it.

Smoltz (15-12) struck out seven and walked one in his seventh complete game of the season. He took a three-hit shutout into the ninth, but Jose Vidro hit his second homer of the season with one out.

Florida 5, New York 2--A few words from the Met dugout inspired Al Leiter's most impressive victory of the season.

Leiter pitched eight shutout innings at Miami and the Marlins reduced the magic number for clinching their first playoff berth to four.

"There's a little incentive when the opposing manager is yelling from the dugout, 'He's not going to make it to the seventh inning,' " Leiter said. "It's fun for me to prove somebody wrong like that."

Leiter said he heard the remark by Met Manager Bobby Valentine in the third inning.

"Good for him," Valentine said with a smile. "What, he recognized my voice?"

Moises Alou and Jeff Conine hit two-run homers for the Marlins. Florida remained six games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

One more loss will eliminate the Mets.

Cincinnati 5, Houston 4--The Reds piled up 11 hits off starter Chris Holt, three by Willie Greene, and held on at Cincinnati, as they slowed the Astros' drive toward the NL Central title.

Houston's magic number for clinching the division remained at seven. The Astros remain 3 1/2 games ahead of second-place Pittsburgh.

The Reds won for the sixth time in nine games and improved to 28-26 under Manager Jack McKeon, who before the game was given a contract extension through 1998.

Dave Burba (10-10) gave up three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings as he won his fourth consecutive start since returning from a back injury. Jeff Shaw got three outs for his 40th save in 46 chances, four shy of the franchise saves record set last season by Jeff Brantley.

Shaw has received credit for a save in each of his last 15 appearances, the third-longest streak in NL history.

Lee Smith had 17 consecutive saves for St. Louis and Randy Myers had 16 consecutive for Chicago in 1993.

Philadelphia 10, Chicago 5--The Phillies will not lose 100 games this season.

"I don't know if I'm thrilled or relieved," Phillies Manager Terry Francona said.

Rookie Scott Rolen and Rico Brogna hit successive home runs, leading the Phillies at Chicago in a game called after 5 1/2 innings.

The game was delayed by rain three times, totaling 2 hours 35 minutes, and called after the third stoppage, a 39-minute delay, by crew chief Jim Quick.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BESTS OF THE DAY

BATTING

*--*

Player Team Performance Team's Result Mark McGwire St. Louis 54th home run Win Willie Greene Cincinnati 3 for 4, double Win M. Morandini Philadelphia 3 for 3, double, 2 RBIs Win

*--*

PITCHING

*--*

Player Team Performance Team's Result John Smoltz Atlanta 9 innings, 5 hits, Win 1 run, 7 strikeouts Al Leiter Florida 8 innings, 4 hits, Win 0 runs, 6 strikeouts Carlos Perez Montreal 7 innings, 3 hits, Loss 4 strikeouts

*--*

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