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Mac mashes No. 63
Pinch-hit shot in 9th pushes McGwire ahead of Sosa again
Posted: Wednesday September 16, 1998 09:17 AM
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- It took Mark McGwire only one at-bat to regain the lead in the home-run derby.
Hours after saying he didn't care whether he or Sammy Sosa reigned as the new home run king, McGwire hit No. 63 to move ahead in the great race.
He ended a six-game homer drought with a solo shot off Jason Christiansen in St. Louis' 8-6 loss to Pittsburgh in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday night.
"He's been doing it for a year and two months, people cheering 'C'mon Mark, we want you to hit one,'" Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Boom, he hits one! How does he do it? I have no idea, except that he's remarkable."
McGwire didn't appear at all impressed with himself.
"It's not a record," he said. "It's not a record 'till the season is over."
McGwire's swing went out of sync after he hit his 62nd home run September 8, and he was 3-for-18 with three singles in six games before hitting his sixth career pinch homer in only 32 at-bats. He doesn't like pinch-hitting, but he's good at it, with 13 hits, and he figured he'd get a chance.
"I've been with Tony too long," McGwire said. "I was getting ready in the second inning."
McGwire had an RBI double and a bases-loaded walk in the Cardinals' 9-3 victory in the second game, and just missed on a couple of other at-bats, hitting high fly balls to right in the third and center in the fifth. He also walked twice, extending his NL record to 154 walks.
McGwire did not start the opener as a precaution for his ailing back, and to allow more fans a chance to see him play. The games were sold out, but only about 10,000 fans were watching when the first game began at 4:10 p.m. EDT.
The ballpark was filled and everyone was standing when McGwire, batting for leadoff hitter Delino DeShields, made his third pinch-hit appearance of the season with one out and nobody on in the ninth.
On a 1-0 fastball that was down and in, he hit a 385-foot drive into the left-center field bleachers.
It was a gratuitous appearance, given the Cardinals were down three runs, but La Russa said this was a special case. He would have liked to have had McGwire hit for reliever Jeff Brantley, who was up fifth that inning, but didn't know if it would last that long.
"You sit around and wait for that, you may not get there," La Russa said. "I gave him a shot."
Pirates manager Gene Lamont had no complaints.
"Under ordinary circumstances, you wouldn't send McGwire up in that situation," Lamont said. "But I understood why Tony did it. It was a good idea."
The historic significance was lost on Christiansen.
"A home run is an earned run and that upsets me anytime I give up an earned run," Christiansen said. "It really doesn't matter if it's a guy's first homer or his 100th."
McGwire has three homers against Pittsburgh pitching and is 13-for-27 with seven RBIs, but none of the homers hurt the Pirates.
"I've enjoyed all three because they didn't affect the games," Lamont said.
The fan who caught the ball had no immediate plans to give it back. McGwire has received every ball from homer No. 56 on, but John Grass, 46, was looking to cash in.
"The ball is worth something to someone and I'd like to have something for it myself," Grass said. "He makes millions of dollars, I don't think there is anything wrong with something coming to me."
Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said he didn't expect the team to negotiate a deal for the ball.
"I don't know how you would figure out what it's worth," Jocketty said. "It might not be worth much, depending on how many home runs he hits."
McGwire wasn't concerned.
"That's all right," he said. "He can keep it."
The homer was McGwire's 173rd in three seasons and 450th overall, leaving him two behind Carl Yastrzemski for 20th place on the career list.
Drew's two-homer game was the first by a Cardinals rookie since Bernard Gilkey on Oct. 5, 1991. Drew hit two doubles in the second game - he went 4-for-8 in the doubleheader and also hit into three double plays.
Jose Guillen added a two-run homer in the third for the Pirates, who snapped a three-game losing streak and won for only the fourth time in 18 games.
Ray Lankford had a two-run homer for the Cardinals. He hit a two-run single in the second game, giving him a career-high 100 RBIs.
Sean Lawrence (2-1), the third Pittsburgh pitcher, allowed a run in 2 1/3 innings. Rich Loiselle got two outs for his 19th save.
In the second game, Drew and Brian Jordan also had RBI doubles in a three-run first against Jose Silva (6-5). A fourth run scored on a two-out throwing error by third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the third.
Manny Aybar (5-6) allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Juan Acevedo got four outs for his 10th save.
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