It appears Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are ready for their showdown that begins tonight when the St. Louis Cardinals begin a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
On Sunday, a day after becoming the first player in history with consecutive 60-homer seasons, Sosa hit his 61st in the first inning and scored the winning run in the 10th as the Cubs defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 8-7, at Chicago.
McGwire moved closer in the home run race by hitting his 57th and 58th in the Cardinals' 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros at St. Louis.
"What I've done so far isn't too shabby, but it really doesn't mean much when your team's not in the race," McGwire said. "I just play the game and let it fall where it may."
After striking out in the first, McGwire hit a two-run homer against Chris Holt (5-13) in the fourth. He cleared the bullpen in left-center field on Holt's first pitch of the sixth, a drive estimated at 423 feet that put the Cardinals ahead, 3-2.
At Chicago, Sosa connected for a two-run shot in the first against Hideo Nomo.
He then led off the 10th with a single and eventually scored on Benito Santiago's single.
After the game, Sosa said he wants to perform well when McGwire comes to town.
"I'm looking forward to having a great series. Just wait and see what happens tomorrow."
Pittsburgh 8, Cincinnati 5--Brian Giles hit his 38th and 39th homers to drive in three runs as the Pirates defeated the Reds at Pittsburgh.
Greg Vaughn hit his 40th homer and the Reds' 40th in 19 September games, but the Reds' four pitchers battled control problems in their second loss in the three-game series and fourth in six games.
The Reds, who won seven in a row before a slide that started with two losses in three games at home to the last-place Chicago Cubs, trail Houston by 3 1/2 games in the NL Central race and the New York Mets by four games for the wild card.
Cincinnati starter Pete Harnisch (14-10) walked three and hit a batter--breaking Ed Sprague's left hand and ending his season--in three innings.
Arizona 8, Florida 7--Matt Williams hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to give the Diamondbacks a victory over the Marlins at Phoenix, reducing the Diamondbacks' magic number for clinching the NL West to six.
Arizona took two of three from the Marlins and lead second-place San Francisco by eight games.
The Diamondbacks now begin their final road trip, with three games beginning tonight at Colorado, followed by three games at San Francisco next weekend.
San Diego 6, San Francisco 3--Phil Nevin's two-run single highlighted a four-run seventh inning as the Padres rallied to defeat the Giants for the second day in a row at San Diego.
San Diego trailed, 3-2, before rallying against Shawn Estes (11-9), who had beaten the Padres twice this year.
Tony Gwynn singled twice to push his career total to 3,053 hits, tying Rod Carew for 18th on the all-time list.
Atlanta 5, Montreal 1--Kevin Millwood won his career-high 18th game and Freddy Garcia homered in his first at-bat for the Braves, who maintained their hold on first in the NL East with a victory over the Expos at Atlanta.
The Braves, who have won seven consecutive division titles, are still one game ahead of the second-place New York Mets. The two teams meet six times in the next nine games, beginning a three-game series Tuesday night at Turner Field.
Garcia, acquired in a trade with the Pirates, played for the first time since reporting to Atlanta eight days earlier. He started in the outfield because Brian Jordan was bothered by lingering soreness in his right hand.
New York 8, Philadelphia 6--John Olerud and Mike Piazza hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning and the Mets overcame a bad inning by Kenny Rogers to defeat the Phillies at Philadelphia.
Olerud drove in four runs as the Mets won for the 11th time in 15 games. Piazza, forced to leave Friday night's game and sit out Saturday because of a bruised left hand, hit his 36th home run.
After going 7-2 in 14 starts with the Mets, rookie Octavio Dotel (8-2) made his first appearance in relief and retired four batters to get the victory.
Rogers, who left because of a strained left hamstring, retired the first 12 batters he faced before the Phillies batted around and took the lead in a six-run fifth highlighted by Rico Brogna's two-run homer.