ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals have been home-run happy ever since Mark McGwire came to town.
Now look at 'em. Just about everyone on the team is hitting homers. Even the pitchers.
The Cardinals lead the majors in home runs in a season that is on a record pace for total homers.
''It's amazing, the way we're playing ball,'' third baseman Fernando Tatis said. ''We've got a great lineup, one of the best in the league.''
St. Louis broke the National League record for homers in April with a week to spare when McGwire and Tatis hit two-run shots to give them 42, one more than the Atlanta Braves had in April 1998.
On Tuesday, they broke the major league record of 49 set by the 1997 Cleveland Indians. With 52 homers and three games to go in April, they were within striking distance of the major league record for any month -- 58 by the Baltimore Orioles in May 1987.
All this from a team that hit just 20 homers last April, finished fifth in the NL with 194 long balls for the year and added only one new power hitter, Jim Edmonds, in the offseason.
McGwire, who set the home run record of 70 in 1998, was tied for the team lead with seven homers despite missing nine games with a back injury. Edmonds also had seven, and Tatis had six going into the weekend.
During the 1980s Whiteyball era, the Cardinals' team total was usually close to Roger Maris' old record of 61 homers. They hit just 58 in 1986.
But they've shed that old reputation as a team that relied solely on speed and defense to lead the leaguewide home-run binge.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 843 homers (2.63 a game) had been hit in April through Thursday, compared with 736 (2.22) in 1999. Last season, teams hit a record 5,528 home runs (2.28).
They way the first-place Cardinals are playing, they often look as if they could reach that total by themselves.
All but one of the Cardinals' 14 position players had homered, with second baseman Fernando Vina the lone holdout. Backup infielder Placido Polanco, who entered the year with two career homers in 133 games, had three in his first 33 at-bats.
There's plenty of power and not just with McGwire, Edmonds and Tatis.
Edgar Renteria, who hit 11 last year, already had five. J.D. Drew had four in 32 at-bats and six players had three apiece. Rookie pitcher Rick Ankiel, the most unlikely member of the long-ball club, has two.
Manager Tony La Russa said Ankiel, who has thrown 14 consecutive scoreless innings and is batting .500, could have made it to the majors as a hitter.
Perhaps the only member of the team who's not impressed with the early season assault is McGwire, probably because he hits them with such regularity.
After 135 homers the past two seasons, McGwire acts as if he's tired of homer talk, ridiculing the April record.
''Who cares? Don't even talk about it. It's stupid,'' he said.
Perhaps, but why is it happening? There's no shortage of theories. Smaller ballparks, worse pitching, better weight training for players.
It could be the Bud Balls.
The new, Bud Selig-signed baseballs have a blue major league stamp on them, which they didn't have in the past. Perhaps, the thinking goes, the stamp helps hitters zone in on the ball.
Not likely, many batters say.
Eric Davis, who has three homers, spun a ball out of his hand to illustrate.
''I didn't even know there was a new insignia on the ball,'' he said.
Batting coach Mike Easler scoffed at the idea.
''There's no way, a ball coming that fast and moving that much, that you can concentrate on a little blue spot,'' he said. ''It's impossible.''
McGwire seemed to take offense that people would need to explain the latest home run barrage.
''It's white and it's got red seams on it, right?'' McGwire said. ''There's not enough credit given. It should be, 'Hey, this guy is pretty good.'''
In St. Louis, they've got a bunch of pretty good guys right now.
End Adv for April 29-30
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