Rugby World Cup
This Week's Issue
Life of Reilly
SI for Women
CNN/SI - TV
Golf Pro Shop
MLB Gear Store
NFL Gear Store
SI FOR KIDS
Sosa hits No. 58
Cubs slugger stays 2 back of Big Mac as Chicago wins 8-4
Posted: Sunday September 06, 1998 12:39 AM
Sosa stayed close in the greatest home run chase in baseball history, hitting a McGwiresque tape-measure drive for his 58th of the season as the streaking Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4 Saturday night.
Look out, Babe -- McGwire's already caught you, and Sosa's right behind.
Only hours after McGwire joined Babe Ruth and Maris in baseball's exclusive 60-homer club, Sosa moved within two of that historic mark. He hit a skyscraper-high 417-foot drive into the right-field seats off rookie Sean Lawrence to start a two-run sixth inning.
"Hey, this is fun!" Sosa said. "I predicted last night he would hit one. Then he hit one, so I said to myself, so, well I guess we push each other a little bit."
Sosa, who has homered in three straight games and six of his last seven, usually leaves the long-distance homers to McGwire, but this one had all the height and distance of a Big Mac special.
"I think we're motivation for each other a little bit," Sosa said. "I try to go up there and do my job and I came through, and I know he does, too. It's unbelievable."
The crowd of 37,711 -- unusually large for Three Rivers Stadium in September -- roared as he rounded the bases and refused to stop until Sosa tipped his cap for his second curtain call in as many nights.
The last No. 21 to get so many curtain calls in Three Rivers? Roberto Clemente, Sosa's childhood idol while growing up in the Dominican Republic.
Sosa also hit an opposite-field homer in the first inning Friday that broke Hack Wilson's club record of 56 homers in 1930. Now, the only players with more homers in a season than Sosa are Roger Maris (61 in 1961), Babe Ruth (60 in 1927 and 59 in 1921) and McGwire.
Sosa went 2-for-5 with a single and his 141st and 142nd strikeouts as the Cubs won their sixth straight to stay a game ahead of New York in the NL wild-card race.
"We've been so focused on the standings and the race, we haven't had a chance to appreciate it fully," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said of Sosa's season. "He's just carried us. I can't put into words what he's done."
Gary Gaetti has played with both McGwire and Sosa this season, and thinks McGwire will break the record first. But he isn't conceding the home run record to him.
"Even if Mark's the first one there, Sammy's in a playoff situation here," Gaetti said. "Everybody's rooting for Mark, but we're rooting for Sammy, too because we want to get to the playoffs."
Pirates manager Gene Lamont also said Sosa might finish with the title.
"I don't think it's a lock that Mark McGwire will hit the most home runs," Lamont said. "Mark McGwire is the best power hitter I've ever seen, but the thing about Sammy is he's playing to get into the playoffs."
McGwire (60) and Sosa (58) have combined for the most homers -- 118 -- by two players in a single season. And this time Sosa copied McGwire, who has made a habit recently of hitting homers only hours after Sosa did.
Sosa's deep drive clearly rattled Lawrence (1-1), a 28-year-old rookie who had limited the Cubs to two runs and four hits until then in only his third career start.
"Yeah, I challenged him," said Lawrence, who grew up a Mets fan in suburban Chicago. "If I get the pitch down, maybe he grounds out to the shortstop. But that's why he's getting paid like he is, he's not to supposed to miss 3-1 pitches in that spot."
Sosa's leadoff single in the second -- he batted cleanup rather than third for the 28th time -- preceded consecutive doubles by Hill and Gaetti, who are hitting over .300 since being picked up by the Cubs last month. Gaetti's double drove in both runners.
Tapani (17-7) shrugged off Turner Ward's two-run homer in the fourth, his seventh, for his career high 17th victory and fifth in a row. He pitched six-hit ball over 7 1-3 innings and twice worked out of two-on, two-out jams.
Rod Beck got the last out for his 44th save and sixth in as many games.
Pirates shortstop Abraham Nunez committed three errors, two on the same play and another that scored two runs, in a three-run Cubs eighth.
The Pirates scored twice in the eighth but still lost their eighth in a row, their longest streak since 1991.
Notes: Sosa's homer was his ninth in 13 games, and his 49th in 89 games after once trailing McGwire 24-9. ... Sosa, who had never hit more than 40 homers before this season, has established career highs with 58 homers, 140 RBIs, 175 hits and 113 runs scored. ... The Cubs have won nine of 10 and are 18 games over .500 for the first time since 1989. ... Tapani has won eight of his last nine decisions. ... Gaetti is 11-for-24 in his last six games and is hitting .380 in 14 starts with the Cubs. ... The Pirates won nine in a row before their losing streak.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.