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Mark McGwire was in a jovial mood after ending a 24 at-bat homer drought with No. 55 Friday night.

After McGwire hit a three-run shot in St. Louis' 11-5 victory over Pittsburgh, he joked that this might be his last season. The reason: He finally got to see Alan Benes, out since July 30, 1997 with two shoulder operations, pitch.

Benes was hurt a day before McGwire was acquired on the trading deadline from the Oakland Athletics.

"I'm going to seriously consider retirement after the season," McGwire said, tough in cheek. "I've done everything I wanted to accomplish since coming over here, and one of them was seeing Alan Benes pitch. I don't need to do anything else."

McGwire has 512 career homers, tying Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks for 12th on the career list. During the drought since he hit Nos. 53 and 54 on Sept. 3, he had three singles and one RBI. "I've been seeing the ball fine," McGwire said. "When you don't get anything to hit, you're not going to do much, it's pretty self-explanatory."

McGwire's homer off Mike Williams in the eighth inning opened the door for Benes, because closer Ricky Bottalico had been warming up with a three-run lead. Benes, who was one of the NL's dominant pitchers when he was injured, struck out two and allowed a hit in the ninth.

Kent Bottenfield won his 17th game on his fourth attempt. Bottenfield (17-7) allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings to win for the first time since Aug. 13.

Johnson sets personal mark

PHOENIX -- On his 36th birthday, Randy Johnson threw a six-hitter and set a personal best for strikeouts in a season as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-1.

Johnson (15-9) struck out seven, giving him 335 for the season, the seventh-most in major league history.

With four starts remaining, Johnson needs 49 strikeouts to break the single-season record of 383 set by Nolan Ryan in 1973.

Coleman to step down

NEW YORK -- National League president Len Coleman, upset with owners' proposals to strip his job of nearly all authority, plans to resign at the end of the World Series, several senior baseball officials said Friday.

Coleman, baseball's highest-ranking black official, has headed the NL since March 1994. He had been resisting the efforts of commissioner Bud Selig to switch control of umpires from the league presidents to Sandy Alderson, hired last year as Selig's executive vice president of baseball operations, and has fought with Selig over baseball's failure to hire to more minorities.

Around the horn

Carl Everett hit two home runs, the second a two-run shot in the 13th inning to give the Astros their eighth straight win, 6-4 over the Cubs. The win kept Houston three games ahead of Cincinnati in the NL Central. Billy Wagner (4-1) pitched a perfect 13th inning, including a strikeout of Sammy Sosa on four straight fastballs. Sosa finished 0 for 6 with three strikeouts. . . . Barry Larkin hit his first homer since June 21 and Eddie Taubensee added a two-run shot in the Reds' 4-2 victory over the Marlins. . . . Brian Bohanon pitched eight strong innings and had two hits, including his first career home run, as the Rockies pounded the Brewers, 15-3. . . . Darren Dreifort pitched eight strong innings and Raul Mondesi homered as the Dodgers beat the Mets, 3-1. The Mets' wild-card lead over Cincinnati was cut to 2 1/2 games. . . . Phil Nevin hit two homers and drove in a career-high five runs to lead the Padres to a 10-3 victory over the Expos.

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