Mark McGwire may have ended the great home run derby a day early. Sammy Sosa may have to settle for keeping the Cubs' postseason hopes alive.
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 St. Louis Cardinals' connected again in the seventh, a two-run, 435-shot off rookie Kirk Bullinger that gave him his ninth mul-ti-homer 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 Mc-Gwire.
"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 Aug. 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.