- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001


CHICAGO (AP) Mark McGwire's power is still there.

McGwire hit two home runs as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1 yesterday.

McGwire has 570 home runs, three behind Harmon Killebrew for fifth place on the career list. He has homered in three straight games and has nine in his last 15 games since the All-Star break.

While McGwire's batting average is still only .205, each of his last six hits has been a home run.

"It was an opportune time for Big Mac to discover that home run stroke," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

McGwire has pushed forward despite injuries, including a trip to the DL that saw him miss 36 games.

"I probably won't be comfortable until next year, so I am just battling through it," McGwire said.

Rookie Bud Smith (3-0) allowed a run on five hits and three walks in seven innings. The 21-year-old left-hander struck out five, a season-high.

Steve Kline got three outs for his fourth save.

The Cardinals, who stopped the Cubs' three-game winning streak, have won eight of 12 to come within 7? games of first-place Chicago in the National League Central.

Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead double for the Cardinals in the sixth, but the hustle of Fernando Vina set up the score.

With one out, Vina lined the ball near the right-field line and tested the arm of Sammy Sosa, who threw a strike to Ricky Gutierrez at second in plenty of time to get Vina. But the force of Vina's slide knocked the ball out. Gutierrez was given an error.

After a groundout moved Vina to third, Pujols doubled to the gap in right-center, putting the Cardinals ahead 2-1.

"We might have been pushing it a little," La Russa said of Vina's aggressiveness. "Sammy made a great throw, and the slide knocked the ball loose."

Smith, who was making his first career start on the road, retired 16 of 19 batters at one point.

"We knew one thing for sure. We knew he would be composed and not get rattled," La Russa said. "He had great cool out there. Every time he goes out there, he impresses me with something."

Kevin Tapani (8-8) pitched well in defeat, allowing two runs one earned on four hits and no walks in seven innings.

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