Steel beams, concrete steps and jumbotrons are under

By Ken Berger Associated Press Published:

Steel beams, concrete steps and jumbotrons are under serious assault, and they're losing.

McGwire hit his 35th homer Thursday night, nearly becoming the first player to hit a ball out of Jacobs Field, but the Indians got two homers from Jim Thome to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-2.

A night after homering in a 14-3 loss to the Indians, McGwire's attack on the 5-year-old stadium again went for naught. Asked to talk about it, he said, "No. We lost."

His 461-foot homer off Dave Burba would have left the stadium if it hadn't collided with a steel beam on the left-field scoreboard. Everyone was admiring it _ except McGwire.

"I just don't like losing," McGwire said. "I'm sort of disappointed in the way it went here."

Thome, a good friend of McGwire's who sent the slugger a 12-pack of beer after the first game of the series, talked more about McGwire's power than his own.

"If there's one guy in baseball who we want to do it, it's him," Thome said, referring to Roger Maris' record of 61 homers in a season. "It's truly a pleasure to watch him, to watch how he handles himself. He's such a gentleman."

McGwire has 35 homers in 71 games, missing six of the Cardinals' first 77. In 1961, Maris had 31 homers through 77 games and didn't hit his 35th until game No. 86.

"I've always thought that of all the people I've seen, his chances of doing it are the best," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "Not only is he big and strong, but I think mentally he can handle it."

McGwire hit a 2-2 curveball from Burba (9-5) with two outs in the first, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. It was the second-longest homer hit at the ballpark. McGwire, the only player to reach the left-field scoreboard, owns the top three.

Though colossal, McGwire's 461-foot homer wasn't even worthy of his top 10, which is led by a 545-foot bionic blast at Busch Stadium earlier this season.

The longest of his nine homers at Jacobs Field _ tops among visiting players _ was a 485-foot shot off Orel Hershiser that dented a beer advertisement on the scoreboard last April 30.

"I felt sorry for Burba," Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel said. "But I enjoyed this one as much as Hershiser's. It's amazing to see a ball travel that far."

All that kept it from leaving the ballpark was the steel beam between the left-field foul pole and the scoreboard behind the bleachers. A couple of inches to the left or right, and it would have reached the parking garage across the street.

"I thought it was foul," said Burba, who gave up McGwire's 55th homer last Sept. 24. "I looked in for a new ball and Sandy was just staring. I never saw the ball. Apparently, it went pretty far."

Thome hit a two-run homer in the fifth, his 21st, then made it 5-2 with a solo shot off Bobby Witt in the eighth. The first homer, coming after David Justice singled, traveled 394 feet _ puny by McGwire standards. But Thome's eighth-inning blast, estimated at 436 feet, sailed over trees and a wall guarding the centerfield picnic area.

"Thome is an outstanding player. One of the best," McGwire said. "It blows my mind some of the things he does with the bat."

The Indians, who won their fifth straight, blew it open later in the eighth when McGwire misplayed Mark Whiten's grounder for an error, scoring Manny Ramirez, who walked. They battered Witt in his Cardinals debut with an RBI single from Travis Fryman and an RBI double by David Bell for the final margin.

Burba allowed two runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings, becoming Cleveland's first nine-game winner. He was lifted when McGwire came up after Delino DeShields singled with two outs in the eighth. Paul Shuey got McGwire to line out to Vizquel, who was nearly knocked over by the liner.

"Burba said, 'I'm not scared of McGwire," Hargrove said. "I said, 'Me neither. Let's have Shuey face him.' "

Notes: Thome is 9-for-22 with five homers in his career against Witt. ... Beside's McGwire's homer, Whiten made the play of the game in the fifth when he threw out Gary Gaetti at the plate on Brian Hunter's single. "He threw a waist-high pea about 300 feet," Hargrove said. ... St. Louis starter Manny Aybar (3-4) gave up four runs and six hits in six innings. ... Fryman has six RBI in two games. ... Vizquel recently became baseball's career leader in fielding percentage for shortstops with at least 1,000 games. He entered Wednesday night's game with a .981 percentage, ahead of Larry Bowa and Tony Fernandez (.980). Vizquel, who had a 70-game errorless streak snapped earlier this season, has one error in his last 108 games.

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