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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / NATIONAL LEAGUE | ST. LOUIS vs.
ATLANTA : NOTES

Big Mac's Impersonation of Mota Will Do in a Pinch

October 06, 2000|ROSS NEWHAN

ST. LOUIS — It isn't that Mark McGwire comes to this pinch-hitting business cold. After all, he noted, he grew up in the Los Angeles area watching Manny Mota with the Dodgers, the best. Now, McGwire said with a laugh and a wink Thursday, "I'm the pinch-hitter extraordinaire. I'm Manny Mota."

McGwire, of course, might never attain Mota's consistency--and isn't interested in trying after the current postseason--but Mota probably never came off the bench to hit one as far as McGwire did Thursday, delivering a pinch-hit homer to dead center off Mike Remlinger in the eighth inning, the final icing on the St. Louis Cardinals' 10-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of their division series.

McGwire, sidelined by tendinitis in his right knee and possibly facing surgery when the season ends, had pinch-hit in the eighth inning of Tuesday's opener and was ordered intentionally walked by Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox. The Braves trailed by two runs at the time. On Thursday, the Braves were down by five and Cox saw no harm in pitching to Big Mac, who promptly reminded him that discretion should always come before valor. The homer electrified the Busch Stadium crowd of 52,389, as well as the Cardinal bench.

It even pleased McGwire, who ended up with 32 regular-season homers in 236 at-bats, having made his last start at first base on July 6.

"Unfortunately, I have to get my five at-bats in one now, but the way I look at it, two months ago I didn't think I'd be able to do anything," he said.

"Now I'm happy to be able to pinch-hit at least, and I'm having a great time watching this team play. I mean, we're playing great, doing the little things, capitalizing on mistakes, waiting for the right pitch to hit."

In the process, Will Clark continues to lessen the impact of McGwire's loss. Clark, who hit 12 homers and drove in 42 runs in 51 games after his July 31 acquisition, slugged a three-run homer off Tom Glavine in the first inning to give the Cardinals and Darryl Kile a 3-2 lead.

McGwire called Clark's acquisition the "steal of the year," then smiled and added, "Thank God he's a free agent at the end of the year or I might have lost my job. The way he's hitting our owners must be wondering why they picked up my [2001] option already."

It is doubtful the Cardinals would consider paying Clark, who is earning $5.5 million this season, to be a backup to McGwire, but that's a decision for later. On Thursday, Manager Tony LaRussa, unusually bubbly after his team took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, referred to McGwire as Michael Jordan with his flair for the dramatic and the way he rises to the occasion.

"That's pretty awesome," McGwire said, "but Tony must have forgotten that I'm slow and can't jump."

And forgotten that for the time being he's more like Manny Mota.

*

The Cardinals, who generally start five left-handed batters and had four in Thursday's lineup, were 17-23 against left-handed pitchers this year before pounding Glavine. . . . The Atlanta lefty was 7-0 in his last eight starts against the Cardinals and had not lost to them since 1995. . . . A headline in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Thursday that read "Ultimate Tough Guy Glavine Brings Control to Mound Today" was circled in black and posted on a wall in the Cardinal clubhouse. . . . Kile's seven strong innings followed his 5-0 September.

THE SERIES

Game 1: St. Louis 7, Atlanta 5

Thursday: St. Louis 10, Atlanta 4

Saturday: St. Louis (TBA) at Atlanta (TBA), 10 a.m., ESPN

* Sunday: St. Louis at Atlanta, 10 a.m., ESPN

* Monday: Atlanta at St. Louis, TBA

* If necessary All times PDT

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