10th Longest Home Run Game Recap
Cardinals 8, Braves 7

ST. LOUIS (Aug 31, 1998 - 4:02 EDT) -- Homer No. 55 was for Mark McGwire, the purist.

The St. Louis Cardinals slugger usually puts on a glum face if he hits a long ball and his team loses. He was ebullient Sunday night, not because he regained the homer lead over Sammy Sosa, but because his 501-foot, three-run shot capped a comeback from a six-run deficit in an 8-7 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

"They always feel good," McGwire said. "But it even feels better when you win a ballgame the way we did against, if not the best, one of the best teams in the National League."

As for his race against Sosa to Roger Maris' record of 61 homers in 1961, McGwire says it's just coincidence the way he keeps trumping the Cubs' star, who hit his 54th earlier in the day.

McGwire's last three homers have come on the same day as Sosa has homered. It marked the fourth time in the last two weeks, the seventh time in five weeks and the 18th time this season McGwire and Sosa have homered on the same day.

"I've said this time and time again," McGwire said. "I only can take care of Mark McGwire, period.

"This is not a challenge, this is not a race to whatever, we don't get an Oscar at the end, for like best actor. He takes care of himself, I take care of myself and wherever the chips fall at the end of the season, that's where it is."

McGwire said he didn't know Sosa had homered in Colorado until manager Tony La Russa told him before the game. His initial reaction: "That he's in a good place to hit them."

La Russa said the news definitely did not bring out the competitor in McGwire.

"It's totally coincidence," La Russa said. "He's competing all the time. I told him Sammy went deep and he said he was glad for him."

McGwire also said it would be great if both he and Sosa finish with more than 60 homers.

"I'm extremely happy for him," McGwire said. "He's having a magical year, a way better year than I'm having. His team is right there in the wild card race, he's driven in quite a few more runs than I have and hit for higher average."

McGwire's homer off Atlanta reliever Dennis Martinez was one of his three hits and came one day after he was ejected for arguing a called third strike in the first inning. The ejection, his first since joining the Cardinals last year, sparked a noisy game-long demonstration from usually placid Busch Stadium fans.

That episode was long forgotten way before he came to the plate in the seventh inning with runners on first and second, nobody out, and the Braves leading 7-5. The only thing on his mind was how tough Martinez has been to hit throughout his career.

"When it leaves his hand it looks like it's in the other batter's box, and it comes right back on the outside black," McGwire said. "You need about a 50-inch bat to try to hit it.

"You just hope he doesn't get it where he wants to get it."

McGwire's first homer in four games came on 1-0 pitch from Martinez (3-6) and disappeared over the backdrop beyond the center-field wall. It was his fifth 500-foot-plus homer at Busch this season and the crowd of 44,051 demanded -- and got -- a curtain call.

"That was a bomb," Martinez said. "That wasn't the first one I've given up and it won't be the last. Good for him."

McGwire, whose next homer will tie Hack Wilson's NL record, has 26 games remaining to break Roger Maris' record of 61 homers in 1961. Fifteen of those games are at Busch Stadium, where he has hit 29 homers to obliterate the previous record of 17.

"I think it's great that he's doing it," Braves starter Kevin Millwood said. "I just wish he wouldn't do it against us."

Braves pitching had McGwire under control before Sunday, holding him to 4-for-27 with one homer and one RBI this season.

Against Millwood, McGwire drew his major league-leading 141st walk in the first, singled and scored in the fourth and doubled and scored in the fifth to give him a career-high 105 runs scored. The home run gave him 119 RBIs, topping his previous career high of 118 in 1987 -- his rookie year.

He lacked only a triple for hitting the cycle. He has only five in his career, four as a rookie and one in 1988, and doesn't remember the last one.

"I was a young kid just running with my head cut off," McGwire said.

Civility returned to the stadium on Sunday, with fans following the suggestion of Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck and giving the umpires a standing ovation when they made their first appearance.

Sunday's game was incident-free, a marked contrast to all the foul balls, soft-drink bottles, popcorn tins and various other objects tossed on the field after rookie umpire Sam Holbrook gave McGwire the boot on Saturday.

During pregame ceremonies to unveil a bronze bust in his likeness, Buck asked fans to "give them a standing ovation and show them St. Louis is the best baseball town in America."

That's what the umpires got from a crowd of 44,051. Home plate umpire Harry Wendlestedt, the crew chief, tipped his cap in appreciation.

"That's an example of Jack Buck's genius," La Russa said. "That set the tone for a magical night."

McGwire, who chided fans for their actions on Saturday, appreciated the dramatic turnaround.

"I think they realize what they did was wrong," McGwire said. "I really hope the umpires felt great coming out today. It was outstanding."

The Braves hit four homers, including two by Andres Galarraga. Center fielder Ray Lankford robbed Atlanta of a fifth when he leaped high above the wall to snare Tony Graffanino's bid for a third homer in the second inning, and said later it was the best catch of his career. He stole Graffanino of a hit in the eighth with a diving catch in shallow center, turning it into a double play.

Mark Petkovsek (7-4) allowed one hit in two scoreless innings and Juan Acevedo pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

Galarraga homered twice, Nos. 41 and 42, off Donovan Osborne. He led off the second with a homer, and his three-run shot in the third put the Brave ahead 6-0. All but one of Galarraga's eight two-homer games this season have come on the road.

Andruw Jones added his 24th home run, a two-run shot in the second, and Javy Lopez hit his 30th with the bases empty off John Frascatore in the fifth for Atlanta, which leads the NL with 184 homers.

The Cardinals also scored twice in the fourth on a single by Fernando Tatis and a run-scoring groundout by Luis Ordaz, Lankford had a two-run single in the fifth, pinch-hitter Placido Polanco had an RBI single in the sixth.

Notes: Galarraga is 9-for-18 with three homers for his career against Osborne. He had a 14-game hitting streak ended on Saturday. ... Despite the loss, the Braves are 6-3 against the Cardinals this year and 27-10 since Aug. 20, 1995. ... Ozzie Guillen is 1-for-14 against St. Louis pitching this season and 2-for-22 for his career.

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