Mark McGwire homered for the third straight game last night and Kent Bottenfield tied for the National League lead with his 11th victory, leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the visiting Houston Astros, 5-3.
McGwire entered the game a month behind the pace he set in his record 70-homer season last year. He hit his 22nd of the season in the third inning off Sean Bergman (4-4) and is on a pace for 52 home runs.
"He's not on 70-pace, but he's right there with the league leaders, and with RBIs too," Manager Tony La Russa said. "I'd say he's doing outstanding."
The homer, which put the Cardinals ahead 4-0, cleared Big Mac Land in the upper deck at Busch Stadium. Itlanded in the second tier, a drive estimated at 473 feet.
It was his second-longest homer of the season, behind a 484-footer that left Dodger Stadium in May.
"I just hit the ball and run; that's what I do," McGwire said. "You guys can talk about [distance]. If I hit a ball and it goes over the fence, it's a home run. It doesn't matter if it's 331 or 552 feet."
Bergman didn't think much of his fastball, which went down the middle. "It was a terrible pitch," he said. "You can't make pitches like that to him. It was an impressive home run."
Bottenfield (11-3) had not won more than five games in a season. He won for the third time in four starts and tied the Astros' Jose Lima for the league lead.
After entering the season with an 18-27 career mark, he's starting to think about making the all-star team.
"I realize there's a chance, but I also realize there's guys with bigger names right there with me," Bottenfield said. "My parents are trying to get vacation time just in case it happens."
If the Astros' Carl Everett had a vote, he wouldn't give it to Bottenfield.
"Everything he throws looks like you can hit it, so you're swinging at it," Everett said. "I have no idea why we're not hitting him, or anyone's not hitting him because everything looks hittable."
Bottenfield allowed three runs -- one earned -- and four hits in seven innings. He helped himself with a two-run double in the second for his first RBI of the season.
"I was much happier about the pitching," Bottenfield said. "This is such a solid team we're playing, and they give you no room for error."
Ricky Bottalico completed the five-hitter for his 10th save.
Bergman gave up five runs and nine hits in four innings. He's lost three of four starts, allowing 15 earned runs in 20 2/3 innings.
"The only way I can explain it is I pitched terrible," Bergman said.
Cardinals rookie Joe McEwing was 2 for 4 with a double and RBI single to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He's 20 for 55 during that stretch, and leads NL rookies with a .321 average and 26 multihit games.
McGwire made his second error of the season, throwing wildly to second after Everett was picked off in the fourth.
Everett, who reached on an RBI single, scored on Richard Hidalgo's sacrifice fly. Bottenfield picked off Everett again in the sixth, and McGwire made the tag on that one.
Another error helped the Astros score in the sixth. Bill Spiers doubled, went to third on right fielder Thomas Howard's fielding error and scored on Jeff Bagwell's sacrifice fly.
BREWERS 8, GIANTS 1: In San Francisco, Hideo Nomo extended his mastery of the Giants, allowing five hits in seven innings and driving in a run with a double as Milwaukee stopped San Francisco's five-game winning streak.
Many of Nomo's career highlights have come in San Francisco, where he is 5-0 with a 1.12 earned run average. Overall, he is 7-2 against the Giants with a 1.84 ERA. Last night Nomo (5-1) allowed one run, struck out eight and walked three. He retired 11 straight batters in the third through seventh innings.
Jose Valentin homered for the third straight game and added an RBI single. Jeromy Burnitz hit his 17th home run and also had an RBI single.
REDS 7, DIAMONDBACKS 4: Eddie Taubensee hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the 10th inning to lift visiting Cincinnati.
Pinch hitter Dmitri Young led off the inning with a double off Vladimir Nunez (1-1). Taubensee, who went 3 for 4, hit the next pitch over the right field fence for his seventh homer. One out later, Pokey Reese added an RBI single.
Gabe White (1-2) pitched 2 1/3 innings and got the win despite allowing a game-tying, three-run homer to Matt Williams in a four-run seventh.
CAPTION: Cardinals' Mark McGwire is greeted by Ray Lankford after third-inning solo home run off Sean Bergman, his 22nd of season and third in as many games.