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A costly flub for the Cubs
Dropped fly sinks Chicago 8-7 despite Nos. 64, 65 for Sosa
Posted: Thursday September 24, 1998 01:11 AM
MILWAUKEE (AP)-- Brant Brown drifted back in left field for the final easy out, sunglasses down to shield him from the glare of the late-afternoon sun.
The ball landed right on his glove, drawing cheers from the Chicago fans. But the shouts of joy quickly turned to gasps as the ball dropped to the ground, possibly taking the Cubs' playoff hopes right along with it.
"We've had a lot of tough losses," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said. "The timing of that loss right there, certainly, it's excruciating."
The Milwaukee Brewers scored three runs on Brown's error for an 8-7 victory Wednesday. Sammy Sosa broke out of his 0-for-21 slump and hit back-to-back solo homers to give the Cubs a 7-0 lead, but the Brewers rallied for eight runs in the final three innings.
The timing of the loss was especially bad. Chicago, which has three games remaining, began the day tied with New York atop the NL wild-card race. The Mets played Montreal on Wednesday night.
As the ball fell to the ground, several Cubs players dropped to their knees. Brown appeared to be crying as he reached the dugout, and he looked stunned as he spoke with reporters in the clubhouse.
"I don't know how to explain it," said Brown, who went to left field in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement. "The bottom line is I clanked it and we lost the game. You can say the wind, you can say the sun, but those are elements you play with every day. Hopefully, it doesn't cost us that much."
With a 7-5 lead in the ninth, Rod Beck (3-3) loaded the bases with one out. Beck gave up a single to Mark Loretta and a double to Jeff Cirillo, and then intentionally walked Jeromy Burnitz to pitch to Marquis Grissom.
After Grissom popped up, Geoff Jenkins hit the fateful fly ball.
"If they had a four-letter word for baseball, we'd probably be using it," said Beck, who blew just his sixth save in 56 opportunities.
Sosa, breaking an 0-for-21 slump, hit solo shots in the fifth and sixth innings to tie Mark McGwire at 65 and give the Cubs a 7-0 lead. It was his 11th multihomer game this season, tying the major league record set by Detroit's Hank Greenberg in 1938.
The Brewers closed with four runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Chad Fox (1-3) pitched one shutout inning.
"I take as much responsibility as anybody," Beck said. "If those guys aren't on base, then the dropped fly ball doesn't mean [anything]. We'll all stick together and challenge for this thing, regardless."
Sosa had been hitless since his grand slam last week in San Diego that gave him No. 63. But he's hit more homers off Milwaukee than any other team, and Brewers manager Phil Garner knew it was just a matter of time before he broke out of his slump.
After walking in his first two at-bats, Sosa sent Rafael Roque's 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall in the fifth, putting the Cubs ahead 4-0. Fans, who rose to their feet each time Sosa stepped to the plate, let out a huge roar when they realized the ball was going over the wall. Sosa did his trademark home run hop, and then trotted around the bases while the crowd chanted: "Sam-mee! Sam-mee!"
In the sixth inning, he put Rod Henderson's 2-2 pitch over the center-field wall. The two homers gave Sosa 156 RBIs, fourth-best in NL history.
Steve Trachsel, who gave up McGwire's record-breaking No. 62, allowed four runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, retiring 10 straight batters starting in the third. Roque allowed six runs five earned and five hits in 4 2-3 innings.
Milwaukee started coming back in the seventh when Jose Valentin hit a two-run double just past first baseman Mark Grace's glove, Bobby Hughes hit a sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Brian Banks had an RBI single.
Pinch-hitter Bob Hamelin singled in a run in the eighth.
"Everybody feels bad," Beck said. "We should have won this ball game. ... It just makes our job a little bit tougher, that's all."
Chicago took a 2-0 lead in the second when Roque walked four batters and balked home a run. The Cubs scored again in the third when left fielder Geoff Jenkins misplayed Gary Gaetti's sinking liner, allowing Sosa to score from first.
Scott Servais and Trachsel followed Sosa's first homer with RBI singles that made it 6-0 in the fifth.
Notes: Milwaukee finished 38-43 at home in their sixth consecutive losing season under manager Phil Garner. "We took a step backward this year," said Garner, who is expected to be retained by general manager Sal Bando. ... The Brewers total attendance of 1,811,548 was their highest in six seasons. ... The Brewers surpassed their team record of 1,039 strikeouts with Roque's whiff of Grace in the second.
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