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MCGWIRE HITS TWO MORE BUT TIME'S RUNNING OUT

Although he's as close as he's ever been to Roger Maris, Mark McGwire knows the chase is over.

McGwire hit his 56th and 57th home runs in the St. Louis Cardinals' 12-4 win over the Chicago Cubs Saturday, the most homers hit in one season since Maris set the record with 61 in 1961.

Needing four to tie Maris today, McGwire will face Cubs starter Steve Trachsel, who has given up an NL-high 31 homers this year. Only 10 players have homered four times in a game since 1900.

"There's nothing to shoot for -- what's there to shoot for?" McGwire said. "If I get a hit I get a hit. That's the way it goes."

McGwire's two homers put him one ahead of Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. for the major league lead. Griffey hit his 56th against Oakland on Saturday.

Only four players have ever hit more home runs in a season than McGwire. Maris, Babe Ruth twice (60 in 1927, 59 in 1921), Hank Greenberg (58 in 1938) and Jimmie Foxx (58 in 1932).

McGwire hit a 1-0 pitch in the fourth off Kevin Foster (10-7), a line drive that slammed off a concrete facade beyond the left-field fence. In the eighth, he fell behind Ramon Morel 0-2, worked the count to 2-2, and hit a 405-foot homer well beyond the fence in left.

"Effortless," was how McGwire described the home run swings. "I always say it is like a Tiger Woods drive."

The Cardinals snapped a seven-game losing streak, their longest since 1990. Willie McGee had four hits and four RBIs for the Cardinals and Delino DeShields hit a two-run triple.

Dodgers 6, Rockies 1

DENVER -- Ramon Martinez shut down Colorado for seven innings and Otis Nixon drove in two runs but Los Angeles was eliminated from the NL West race when San Francisco defeated San Diego.

"We let it get away from us," Dodgers manager Bill Russell said.

Martinez (10-5) held the Rockies to one run and four hits. He was chased in the eighth when Todd Helton reached on a two-out error and Andres Galarraga singled. But Darren Dreifort induced Dante Bichette to fly out to end the inning.

The Dodgers broke open a tight game with three runs in the ninth off Jerry Dipoto. After Bichette's fielding error, pinch hitters Todd Hollandsworth and Eric Anthony all had RBI doubles and Eric Young added a run-scoring single.

"We had to have a good series here, and we've done that," said Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, whose team has won the first three games of the four-game series. "It's just unfortunate that we didn't have some breathing room or any kind of lead coming in here."

Astros 8, Pirates 1

HOUSTON -- Shane Reynolds beat Pittsburgh for the seventh time in eight career decisions and Bob Abreu had a two-run double in leading Houston to victory.

Reynolds (9-10) allowed one run and six hits in five innings, struck out five and walked none.

Mets 2, Braves 1

NEW YORK -- Alberto Castillo hit a one-out double in the ninth inning that scored Luis Lopez with the winning run as New York rallied to beat Atlanta.

Lopez drew a one-out walk off Mark Wohlers (5-7) and stole second, before Castillo hit a line shot off the center-field wall. John Olerud had tied the score off Wohlers with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

The Mets have won 24 games in their last at-bat.

Phillies 8, Marlins 7

PHILADELPHIA -- Rookie Scott Rolen hit his second homer of the game with one out in the bottom of the ninth, giving Philadelphia a win over Florida.

Rolen, the likely NL Rookie of the Year, hit his 21st homer on a 2-2 pitch from Rob Stanifer (1-2). Rolen's first homer, a two-run shot, gave the Phillies a 6-3 lead in the fifth.

Expos 8, Reds 5

MONTREAL -- Hensley Meulens homered and matched a career high with four RBIs, and Mike Thurman got his first major-league victory as Montreal beat Cincinnati.

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