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Mark McGwire has a bad case of playoff envy.

After hitting No. 61 to draw even with Sammy Sosa in their sequel to the great home run race of '98, all McGwire wanted to talk about was the Cincinnati Reds' joyride towards the postseason.

Who could blame him? Three improbable comebacks, each more astonishing than the last, have made them the talk of baseball.

Eddie Taubensee trumped McGwire's upper-deck shot with one of his own Monday, completing the Reds' rally from a five-run deficit to a 9-7 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Reds' sixth victory in seven games left them 1 1/2 games ahead of the New York Mets for the NL wild card. They also drew into a first-place tie in the NL Central with the Astros, then headed to Houston for a two-game series.

"That's not why I play the game of baseball," McGwire said of his personal records. "They (the Reds) are the perfect example of what the game is all about."

McGwire hit No. 61 into the upper deck in left field as the Cardinals surged to a 6-1 lead. Monday and silenced a crowd that had expected more magic.

It started when Dmitri Young hit a two-run homer in the sixth for the first of his five RBIs, cutting it to 6-3.

Young cut the lead to 6-5 with an RBI single with two outs in the seventh, and Taubensee then won it with his homer.

Martinez vexes Orioles

BOSTON -- Pedro Martinez topped Baltimore on several fronts Monday night.

No longer satisfied just to collect Cy Young awards, Martinez made his latest pitch for the American League's MVP trophy and moved the Red Sox within a game of clinching a playoff berth by dealing the Orioles a 5-3 loss before 33,477 at Fenway Park. In the process, he infuriated Baltimore manager Ray Miller.

Martinez went eight innings, allowing six hits and striking out 12 to hand the Orioles only their third defeat in 19 games.

He also drilled Brady Anderson with a fifth-inning fastball; Anderson had a few words for Martinez after brushing him while scoring on a passed ball in the eighth. Both dugouts and bullpens emptied as Anderson, who doubled twice, moved toward Martinez with his arms extended. No punches were thrown and order quickly was restored.

Aware of Martinez's impeccable control and reputation for throwing at hitters, Miller vented against the purpose pitch.

"Pedro hit my leadoff hitter right in the middle of the back when he's only walked 37 people all year," Miller said. "If he had enough (guts) to cover home plate, he'd have died right there.

"He's jawing at Brady as Brady's walking away. The skinny little --. I've been watching him do it for 10 years. He doesn't have the (guts) to walk up to anybody's face."

Asked if he thought the disagreement would escalate into a brawl, Miller said, "I was hoping."

"What Ray has to say, he should say managing his own team," Martinez responded. "That's a pretty good team to manage and they didn't do --. Ray is just a frustrated man."

Jason Varitek homered and added a two-run double, Damon Buford had three hits and Brian Daubach homered for Boston.

Around the horn

The Yankees made three errors and allowed all of Tampa Bay's runs to score with two outs as the Yankees lost their third straight to the Devil Rays, 10-6. The Yankees (94-62) are one game behind Cleveland for the best record in the AL and only one game ahead of Texas for home-field in a potential playoff matchup. Their magic number for clinching the division title is three . . . The Rangers got closer as Lee Stevens drove in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly in a 3-2 victory over the Mariners. New Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln made what he termed top-dollar offers to Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez and said the team's payroll would expand from $50 million to around $70 million. Griffey denied receiving an offer. . . . Brook Fordyce hit a two-run double in the ninth inning and the White Sox beat the Twins, 3-1. . . . In the National League, Brian Anderson worked around nine hits and Bernard Gilkey drove in three runs as the Diamondbacks beat the Rockies, 10-3, for their sixth straight win. . . . Michael Barrett's three-run double keyed a six-run eighth-inning comeback as the Expos beat the Marlins, 8-4, giving Felipe Alou the 600th win of his managerial career.

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