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The St. Louis first baseman's 34th homer was

By Ken BergerAssociated Press Published: June 25, 1998 12:00 AM

The St. Louis first baseman's 34th homer was significant only in terms of the awesome milestone he's challenging. It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.

McGwire's 34th homer wasn't enough to overcome Cleveland's seven-run first inning as the Indians blew out the Cardinals 14-3 Wednesday night.

By the time Big Mac's blast sailed toward the largest free-standing scoreboard in American sports, the scoreboard already displayed very bad news for the Cardinals.

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"It's really insignificant," McGwire said of his first homer in 18 at-bats, a 433-foot solo blast off Jaret Wright in the fourth. "We got a real beating tonight."

The Indians stole all the drama from the Cardinals' first visit to Jacobs Field with seven runs in the first off Mark Petkovsek. Manny Ramirez hit his seventh career grand slam, and Travis Fryman added to the onslaught with a three-run shot.

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Petkovsek (5-4) retired only one batter and allowed seven runs and seven hits for a 189.00 ERA in the nightmarish outing. Petkovsek called it "one of those pathetic nights."

"The guy they roughed up in the first inning is about as fine a professional as there is in the major leagues," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. "Some days you just don't have it."

Wright (7-4) allowed three runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings, improving to 6-1 in his last seven starts. He walked three and struck out two, pitching on the one-year anniversary of his major league debut.

On June 24, 1997, Wright got his first big league victory, allowing five runs in 5 2/3 innings. A year later, he may have become part of McGwire's historic march to Roger Maris' record of 61 homers.

"I went at him just like any other hitter," Wright said. "He hit it out. That's his job. Hey, we came out on top. The main thing is to win."

Ramirez's 14th homer was his seventh career grand slam, tying him with Albert Belle for second in club history behind Al Rosen, who had nine. Ramirez walked to force in a run in the Indians' five-run fifth, giving him five RBI and 19 in his last eight home games.

"I was trying to hit a fly ball," Ramirez said. "I wasn't trying to hit a home run."

Fryman, whose 13th homer was a 412-foot shot to dead center, added an RBI double in the fifth to give him a season-high four RBI.

McGwire, who hadn't homered since hitting No. 33 in the upper deck at the Astrodome on Thursday, made it 7-1 with a majestic homer on a 1-1 pitch with one out. The homer drew a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 43,321.

"Mac's been doing that to a lot of people," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "I was surprised it didn't go farther. I thought it was going to the parking lot."

McGwire has the most homers by a Cardinal since Dick Allen hit 34 in 1970. He is on pace to hit 75 if he plays in all of the Cardinals' remaining 86 games. He has played in 70 of St. Louis' first 76 games.

LaRussa removed McGwire from the game as Cleveland batted in the sixth with a 12-2 lead. McGwire was 2-for-3, including a single in the first. Interestingly, Brian Hunter came up in McGwire's spot with the bases loaded in the seventh. He reached on an error.

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