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The race continues
Sosa slams 57th home run, closes gap on McGwire
Posted: Saturday September 05, 1998 01:18 AM
Sosa kept the pressure on McGwire in baseball's historic home run derby, breaking Hack Wilson's Chicago Cubs record with his 57th homer Friday night and driving in the go-ahead run in a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Sosa, who has now homered against every National League team this season, hit a 2-0 pitch from Jason Schmidt off a right-field auxiliary scoreboard in the first inning to break Wilson's 68-year-old record.
"That record was there for a lot of years, and maybe mine will stay there, too," Sosa said.
What might not hold up much longer is Roger Maris' record of 61 homers in 1961. McGwire leads Sosa 59-57 with three weeks to go, and Sosa is certain the record will go -- and soon. Maybe this weekend.
"Yeah, I'm pulling for Mark. He's going to do it," said Sosa, who watched on the Three Rivers Stadium video board as McGwire went 0-for-3 in a 3-2 loss to the Reds. "I was ready to clap if I saw him do it."
Instead, it was Sosa who drew a rare curtain call on the road from an enthusiastic crowd of 36,510 that passed up a western Pennsylvania tradition -- the first night of the high school football season -- to possibly see history.
Schmidt didn't mind being part of it, as long as it didn't cost him the game.
"Yeah, I'm going to go right at guys," said Schmidt, who gave up two runs over eight innings. "If they take me deep, they take me deep. I knew one run wouldn't kill me. I tried to power a fastball by him, and he swings through that a lot, but this year he's hitting mistakes."
With fans' flashbulbs popping on every at-bat, Sosa was 2-for-5 with a single, scored twice and reached base four times, the last two on errors. He was credited with an RBI when third baseman Freddy Garcia couldn't handle his hard-hit grounder with the bases loaded in the ninth, and Mark Grace followed with a two-run single off Jason Christiansen.
"We got the win. I got the home run. I got the record. That's something there," Sosa said.
The Cubs, who have 21 games remaining, have won five straight and eight of nine to maintain their one-game lead over New York in the NL wild-card race. The Pirates lost their seventh in a row after winning nine straight.
Sosa's first homer against the Pirates this season -- he was 4-for-16 with only one RBI in five games -- gave him at least one homer in 15 consecutive series dating to July 22 against Montreal.
"Initially we're saying, he didn't get it, he didn't get it, and then he got it," said Gary Gaetti, who has played with both McGwire and Sosa this season. "You just shake your head. I've seen most of Mark McGwire's, and I haven't seen as many of Sammy's, but I know he's helping us win games, and that's what I like the best."
And just like teammate Mickey Mantle pushed Maris in 1961, Sosa is doing likewise with McGwire, the player he affectionately calls "The Man." Before the game, Sosa predicted McGwire will hit 70 but declined to guess how many he'll wind up with.
But to paraphrase Satchel Paige, McGwire shouldn't look over his shoulder -- Sosa might be gaining on him.
Sosa started the fourth with a single to left field and, after Grace singled, came home on Jose Hernandez's grounder to make it 2-0.
But Cubs starter Mark Clark couldn't hold the lead, hitting Jason Kendall with a pitch and walking Kevin Young to start a two-run Pirates sixth. Catcher Tyler Houston then threw late to second on Jose Guillen's sacrifice bunt. Turner Ward hit a sacrifice fly, and Garcia singled in Young.
Matt Karchner (3-0) pitched two scoreless relief innings for the victory. Mike Williams (3-2) took the loss by giving up Manny Alexander's pinch-hit single with one out in the ninth. Christiansen came on to walk Lance Johnson and Mickey Morandini ahead of Sosa's go-ahead RBI.
Rod Beck pitched the ninth for his 43rd save.Notes: Sosa has 48 homers in his last 88 games -- five in his last six games and eight in his last 12. ... Schmidt allowed nine hits in eight innings. ... Cubs rookie star Kerry Wood will skip Sunday's scheduled start due to a sore right elbow, but expects to miss only the one start. ... The Pirates purchased the contract of former Tampa Bay catcher Tim Laker from Class AAA Nashville. ... Sosa needs two homers to tie Wilson's club record of 95 homers in two seasons. ... The Cubs have homered in a club-record 16 consecutive games. ... Twenty of Sosa's 57 homers have given the Cubs a lead. ... Kendall stole two bases, giving him 21. He is only the eighth catcher to steal 20 bases in a season. ... There was no souvenir of Sosa's homer, which ricocheted off the scoreboard and was retrieved on the field. ... The Cubs outhit the Pirates 11-4.
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