Cards welcome Big Mac back, whack Rockies

Sunday, April 18, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals celebrated Mark McGwire's return with a few home runs.

Scott Rolen homered twice and had four RBIs, and Albert Pujols also connected as the Cardinals rallied from a three-run deficit to beat the Colorado Rockies 8-4 Saturday.

McGwire was given a pregame standing ovation by the crowd of 46,471. It was his first appearance at Busch Stadium since retiring after the 2001 season.

"It was pretty awesome," McGwire said. "I tell people all the time, this is the best baseball city in the country. There's no other better fans in the country that appreciate their baseball, and that's the biggest reason why I stayed here."

Rolen has never hit more than 31 homers in a season, but for now he's ahead of McGwire's then-record 70-homer pace in 1998. His second two-homer game of the season came in the Cardinals' 12th game, while McGwire got his seventh in the 13th game six years ago.

"I'm just going to go home and come back tomorrow and try to win a ballgame and close my eyes and keep swinging," Rolen said.

He leads the major leagues with 23 RBIs, also getting a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Earlier in the day he benefited from an official scoring change that gave him a two-run triple in Friday night's 13-5 victory. The play originally was called an error on by left fielder Matt Holliday by the official scorer.

"I can't complain about that," Rolen said. "I was on a roll before I even swung the bat."

Jason Marquis (1-1) allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings to help the Cardinals win their second straight after a 1-6 start at home, their worst since 1973. Todd Helton hit a two-run homer off him in the third.

Marquis minimized potential damage in bases-loaded, none-out situations in the first and fifth, allowing only one run.

Colorado built a 3-0 lead on Vinny Castilla's sacrifice fly in the first and Todd Helton's second homer in two games, a two-run drive in the third.

Shawn Estes (2-1) entered with a 1.29 ER, but he lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs and 10 hits.

Rolen hit a two-run homer in the fourth. The Cardinals chased Estes with five runs in the fifth.

The Cardinals came into this series with three straight losses to the Astros. They have outscored the Rockies 21-9 in the first two games of the three-game series.

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