Sammy Sosa seized the day in his first face-to-face meeting with friend and rival Mark McGwire.

The Cubs star homered in his final at-bat -- his 17th of the season and 13th in the last 22 games -- and Henry Rodriguez added two homers yesterday as Chicago beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-3, at Wrigley Field.

McGwire, facing a Cubs shift that used four outfielders by sending shortstop Jose Hernandez to right-center, went 0 for 4 and struck out twice. He has 14 homers and had hit six in eight games.

Sosa, who lost last season's remarkable home run derby to McGwire, 70-66, went 3 for 4 with two singles, driving his homer to left in the bottom of the eighth off Heathcliff Slocumb and finally giving a sun-drenched crowd of 39,287 what they came to see.

When McGwire popped out of the Cardinals' dugout before the game, Sosa was leaning on the batting cage. At the sight of his friend and rival, he made his familiar two-finger salute. Moments later, Sosa walked over to where McGwire was stretching, extended his hand and embraced him as the two talked briefly.

"He asked me about my restaurant. He told me I was stronger," Sosa said, feeling the immense muscle on his own arm. "I said I don't know how he's stronger than me."

But who's strong enough to touch 70 homers?

"I don't know who can break the record. But anything can happen in baseball," Sosa said.

BRAVES 4, DODGERS 2: In Los Angeles, Odalis Perez pitched 8 1/3 strong innings to bolster his bid to remain in the Atlanta rotation.

Perez (3-2), who had allowed 14 runs in 14 2/3 innings over his last three starts, didn't allow a run until Raul Mondesi hit a two-run homer, his league-leading 18th, in the ninth inning.

ROCKIES 5, PHILLIES 3: Jeff Reed hit his first homer of the season, a tiebreaking solo shot in the seventh inning at Coors Field.

The Rockies won despite being outhit 11-7. The Phillies have lost three in a row and seven of 10.

DIAMONDBACKS 2, METS 1: Omar Daal gave up four hits in seven innings, and Andy Fox hit a two-run triple for visiting Arizona.

Daal (5-4) has beaten the Mets twice this season.

EXPOS 4, GIANTS 2: Michael Barrett doubled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning for Montreal, which won three straight at home for the first time this season.

MARLINS 8, REDS 1: Ryan Dempster pitched seven solid innings, and Florida, managed by third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez, roughed up Steve Avery in Miami.

PIRATES 6, ASTROS 5: Jason Kendall drove in four runs, and host Pittsburgh, outscored 31-10 during Houston's three-game sweep this month, ended Jose Lima's eight-game winning streak.

PADRES 10, BREWERS 8: Reggie Sanders and Dave Magadan hit consecutive solo homers in the first inning, and visiting San Diego ended its five-game losing streak.

CAPTION: After single in second inning, Sammy Sosa pauses to talk to Cardinals' Mark McGwire, whose 70 homers in 1998 were four more than the Cubs outfielder.