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So long, Sosa
McGwire clobbers 67th, 68th homers to retake lead
Posted: Saturday September 26, 1998 10:20 PM
Big Mac hit Nos. 67 and 68 Saturday in the St. Louis Cardinals' 7-6 loss to Montreal, moving two in front of Slammin' Sammy and an incredible seven ahead of the record Roger Maris set in 1961.
"Obviously, it feels nice," McGwire said. "But I've got one more game, and so does he. I think he's got bigger and better things on his mind, helping the Cubs get into the playoffs."
Only one game remains in the regular season, although there's a chance Sosa's Cubs could wind up in a wild-card playoff, which would give him an extra game to catch up.
"McGwire finishes tomorrow and Sosa may not be finished," Expos manager Felipe Alou said. "I know Babe Ruth or Roger Maris will not hit any more."
McGwire said he wouldn't mind if Sosa caught or surpassed him with an extra game.
"There's nothing I can do about it," he said. "I'll be home on the beach, so, sorry."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said that no matter what happens, McGwire can't lose.
"I think he's trying to do exactly what he said, he's trying to take his best shot and whatever the numbers are, they are," La Russa said. "If somebody wants to call him a failure, stand up and call it, and have your house burned, have your children kidnapped."
McGwire reclaimed the lead he's relinquished only twice all season -- and then for only 103 minutes in all -- hitting No. 67 off Dustin Hermanson in the fourth inning. The Cardinals' slugger connected again in the seventh, a two-run, 435-shot off rookie Kirk Bullinger that gave him his ninth multihomer game this season and the 52nd of his career.
Although his actions say otherwise, McGwire said he's not in a better zone than ever.
"My focus has been pretty deep for the last two or three months," McGwire said. "I don't think it can get any deeper."
Both pitchers followed Alou's instructions and went after McGwire.
"It's fun to face him," Hermanson said. "I gave him a 96-mph heater and he hit it. I'm in the business of challenging hitters."
Bullinger, a former Cardinals farmhand, said he was just trying to avoid being embarrassed.
"It's fun watching him hit home runs, although it's not necessarily fun when he does it to you," Bullinger said. "The way he's swinging, he might hit two more tomorrow."
Sosa, who went 2-for-4 with two singles in the Cubs' 3-2 win at Houston, led the race for 58 minutes on August 19 before McGwire regained the lead with his 48th and 49th homers in the same game at Chicago.
Sosa led for 45 minutes on Friday when he hit his 66th before McGwire answered. That was the 21st time the pair had homered on the same day. Two at-bats later, McGwire had the lead again.
With one out in the fourth Saturday and a sellout crowd of 48,212 on their feet and cheering, he lined a first-pitch fastball from Hermanson an estimated 403 feet into the left-field seats.
J.D. Drew doubled to chase Tim Young in the seventh and McGwire hit a 1-1 pitch from Bullinger into the left-center field bleachers, prompting a second curtain call. Fans remained standing throughout the three-run rally, which tied the game 6-all.
McGwire, who surpassed Roger Maris' former record of 61 on September 8, is 1-for-3 for his career against Hermanson, who struck him out on four pitches in the first. Facing Anthony Telford in the fifth, McGwire flied out to deep center, ending the inning. He also hit a game-ending grounder off Rick DeHart, who got his first career save.
"I never dreamed it would come against Mark McGwire," DeHart said. "I'm not a closer, but my adrenaline really kicked in."
Before connecting Friday, McGwire had been homerless in 14 at-bats. This time he went only two at-bats between long balls before hitting his 67th at 5:12 p.m. EDT. On the way to the dugout, he saluted to the Cardinals' owners, as has become his custom, then made a curtain call to thunderous applause.
There was only a one at-bat gap before No. 68, which came at 6:38 p.m. EDT. He's 2-for-2 against Bullinger, singling Friday night.
McGwire warmed up with nine homers in 16 batting-practice swings, including six in a row in one stretch. Four reached the upper deck and two banged off the scoreboard.
McGwire's walk total remained at an NL record 161, nine shy of Babe Ruth's 1923 major-league record. He needs one walk to tie Ted Williams, who walked 162 times in 1947 and '49, for the second-highest total ever.
On Sunday, McGwire faces Expos right-hander Mike Thurman (4-5) and Sosa is on the road against Astros left-hander Mike Hampton (11-7). It will be Thurman's first career appearance against the Cardinals.
The fan who caught No. 67 said he'd give it to the Hall of Fame. Doug Singer, 30, of Dallas, flew to St. Louis with a buddy, who bought tickets for the weekend series three months ago.
Heath Wiseman, 25, a veterinary student at Illinois State, caught No. 68. Wiseman, who is from Ames, Iowa, is in town for a bachelor party and he and a group of friends said they planned to "exploit" the ball.
Notes: McGwire will receive the St. Louis Award, for bringing distinction to the city, after Sunday's game. ... Twenty-three of McGwire's homers have come with the game tied and 11 have produced either a tie or the lead. ... McGwire has 178 homers the last three seasons. In 205 career games with the Cardinals, he has 92 homers, 185 RBIs and 204 walks. At Busch Stadium, he has 49 homers and 98 RBIs in 105 games. ... Cardinals right fielder Brian Jordan missed the game to attend the funeral of sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner but is expected to play on Sunday. ... St. Louis leads the NL with 219 homers, four more than Atlanta. The last time the Cardinals led the league was in 1944, when they hit 100. ... Montreal got the go-ahead run on ninth-inning doubles by Orlando Cabrera and pinch-hitter Scott Livingstone off Mike Busby (5-2). Ugueth Urbina (6-3) worked a scoreless eighth and DeHart finished for his first save.
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