The Florida Marlins got caught up in the home-run hysteria.

After watching Mark McGwire connect for his 54th homer and falling behind St. Louis 6-0, the Marlins hit four home runs - three consecutively on eight pitches - in the ninth inning and beat the Cardinals 7-6 in 10 innings.The game was scoreless through six innings and then - Wham!

"All of a sudden, runs galore," McGwire said.

McGwire got the home-run barrage started with a two-run shot in the Cardinals' five-run eighth inning. The 509-foot shot to dead center made him just the third player in NL history to hit 54 homers, and the first in 49 years. Ralph Kiner hit 54 homers in 1949, and Hack Wilson hit a league-rec-ord 56 in 1930.

Still, another historic night didn't ease the sting of another loss in a disappointing season for the Cardinals, who have now become secondary to McGwire's pursuit of Roger Maris' home-run record.

"I know what America is watching," McGwire said. "They're not watching the Cardinals, they're watching me."

McGwire's homer helped him maintain a two-homer lead over Chicago's Sammy Sosa, who hit No. 52 on Wednesday afternoon in Cincinnati.

"The TV's on in the clubhouse. How can you not?" McGwire snapped when asked if he was aware of Sosa's homer.

John Mabry also had a two-run homer in the Cardinals' five-run eighth before the Marlins hit four home runs in the ninth, including three on consecutive at-bats by Derrek Lee, Cliff Floyd and Kevin Orie off reliever John Frascatore.

Mark Kotsay's three-run pinch-hit homer off Jeff Brantley tied it 6-6, and the Marlins won it in the 10th on Randy Knorr's RBI double in the 10th off Juan Acevedo (6-3).

CUBS 9, REDS 2: Sosa finally made contact against Brett Tomko, hitting a towering shot as Chicago ended a four-game losing streak by winning at Cincinnati.

METS 4, GIANTS 1: Hideo Nomo (6-11) pitched a three-hitter and struck out 10 as New York retained its one-game lead in the NL wild-card chase with a victory at San Francisco.

BRAVES 6, ASTROS 2: At Houston, John Smoltz (13-2) won his eighth straight decision and Javy Lopez hit a two-run homer, snapping the Astros' five-game winning streak.

PADRES 2, PHILLIES 0: Joey Hamilton pitched seven strong innings and Steve Finley homered for San Diego at Philadelphia.

BREWERS 6, ROCKIES 5: At Denver, Bill Pulsipher (2-1) pitched six shutout innings, Jeff Cirillo hit a solo home run and Phil Garner earned his 500th victory as a major league manager.

DODGERS 4, EXPOS 3: At Los Angeles, Eric Young homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth for the Dodgers.

PIRATES 4, DIAMONDBACKS 3: At Phoenix, light-hitting Kevin Polcovich drove in three runs as Pittsburgh won its ninth straight.