Originally created 09/22/99

Home run race stalls



CHICAGO -- The McGwire-Sosa home run derby stalled Tuesday night while Kent Bottenfield took the spotlight.

The burly ex-Cubs reliever showed why he's become one of the St. Louis Cardinals' top starters and one of the major leagues' top winners.

"If he keeps doing what he's doing, he'll probably win 20 every year," Sammy Sosa said after Bottenfield won his 18th game in the Cardinals' 7-2 win over the Chicago.

Bottenfield (18-7) allowed just one hit in six innings.

"When he was here, he didn't have the experience he has now, that confidence," Sosa said. "He went to St. Louis and has become a great pitcher. When something happens in your career, you change, too. You try to show the other team that you can do it. Like when I was traded here from the White Sox."

While McGwire and Sosa couldn't connect, the Cardinals' Fernando Tatis and Edgar Renteria's did go deep. So did Chicago's Shane Andrews, whose homer was the only hit allowed by Bottenfield.

Tatis, who caught baseball's attention early this season with two grand slams in the same inning, became just the 13th St. Louis player to hit 30 homers in a season. Renteria added a three-run homer in the ninth.

"I don't consider myself a power hitter. Mark is a power hitter. Sammy is a power hitter. I don't have their power," said Tatis, who did a Sosa-like heart tap after his homer. "It was something I wanted to do. I'm very proud of myself because this was one of my goals for this year and I did it."

McGwire, who hit his 59th homer Monday night in the opener of the three-game series, went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, a walk and three strikeouts. He remained two homers behind Sosa, who was 0-for-4 with a strikeout, two foulouts and a flyout.

"We pitched Mark great, and they pitched me great, too," Sosa said.

Bottenfield's 18 wins match his victory total in his previous six seasons in the majors. He is the second St. Louis pitcher in the 1990s to reach 18 victories, matching Andy Benes' 1996 total.

With the Cubs in 1996 and 1997, Bottenfield appeared in 112 games, all as a reliever, and had a 5-8 record over the two seasons.

The big difference? Getting an opportunity.

"In the majors, especially now with so many young guys, you don't get a lot of chances to fail," Bottenfield said.

"They're always looking for the next Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine. What people tend to forget is Tom had a lot of chances to fail in Atlanta with some bad teams. Greg had some chances to fail, too. That's what players need. But it's such a win-now-oriented game that it's really tough to get those opportunities," he said.

McGwire hit his sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead in the fifth, increasing his NL-best RBIs total to 137, two more than Sosa.

Placido Polanco's triple and Bottenfield's RBI single made it 1-0 in third. Marcus Jensen doubled in the fifth, moved up on a sacrifice and scored on Ray Lankford's single off Andrew Lorraine (1-5) before McGwire hit his sacrifice fly, a liner to center off Scott Sanders.

Andrews homered to lead of the bottom of the fifth for Chicago' first and only hit off Bottenfield. It was Andrews third homer in three games, his 16th of the season and fifth since signing with Cubs on Sept. 10.

Tatis hit a solo shot in the eighth to make it 4-1. Gary Gaetti's pinch-hit RBI double made it 4-2 in the bottom half.

Notes: Of McGwire's 516 career homers, 399 have come during the 1990s. ... Steve Trachsel, who served up McGwire's 62nd homer last season, is the Cubs starter for Wednesday's series finale. ... Cardinals C Eli Marrero was a late scratch from the lineup because of the flu and replaced by Marcus Jensen, who was the star of the U.S. team at the Pan American Games this summer. ... Gaetti is one appearance shy of playing in 2,500 major league games. He would be the 40th major leaguer to reach that plateau.