ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Mark McGwire moved closer to Roger Maris' home run record and stayed two long balls ahead of Chicago's Sammy Sosa Wednesday night, hitting his 54th of the season against the Florida Marlins.

After Sosa hit his 52nd homer Wednesday afternoon, McGwire connected in the eighth inning off Justin Speier with a drive that landed just above the wall used for background beyond center field at Busch Stadium.

He warmed up for the effort with eight homers in 15 batting-practice swings, including one that banged off the scoreboard beyond the left-field wall. He had been 0-for-2, hitting two towering pop-ups and taking a called third strike, before homering on an 0-1 pinch.

McGwire has 30 games to reach Maris' record of 61 homers in 1961. Nineteen of those games are at home, where McGwire has obliterated the stadium record with 28 homers already this season. The previous mark was 18.

McGwire is also within two homers of matching the NL record for homers, 56 by Hack Wilson in 1930.