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 homerless as Cubs remain tied for wild card
Posted: Sunday September 27, 1998 01:08 AM
Slammin' Sammy fell two home runs behind Mark McGwire, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. But his run in the eighth inning broke a tie that helped the Chicago Cubs rally for a crucial 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros.
The game ended on a controversial call that left the Astros angry and left Chicago and San Francisco tied for the lead in the NL wild-card race.
But with one game to go in the regular season -- barring a playoff -- the spotlight remained on the duel between McGwire and Sosa.
McGwire hit two homers against Montreal in St. Louis to take a 68-66 lead.
"I still have a shot," Sosa said. "It doesn't look good, but I still have a chance. I've always been saying Mark is going to finish ahead of me. He'll probably hit two more Sunday."
Sosa's pursuit of home run history has diverted attention from the Cubs' late-season struggles. The victory Saturday was just their second in seven games.
But perhaps their 53-year run of bad luck is ending: Chicago caught a break with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the potential tying run at third.
Pitcher Rod Beck fielded Dave Clark's topper near the first-base line and made an unsuccessful attempt at a tag. Beck's throw to first then hit Clark in the back, but plate umpire Eric Gregg called Clark out for leaving the baseline trying to elude the tag before the throw.
"He reached to tag him, and the guy went outside the three-foot area," crew chief Bruce Froemming said.
Replays appeared inconclusive -- but not to the Astros.
"Two umpires had a clear call at it, and they blew it," manager Larry Dierker said.
"I know I was inside the line," Clark said. "The Giants are going to be mad about this when they see the replay."
Surging San Francisco won at Colorado, while the New York Mets lost at Atlanta and fell a game behind the wild-card leaders. The Cubs are bidding for their first postseason berth since 1989 and their first trip to the World Series since 1945.
"This is what we all live for," said first baseman Mark Grace, who has spent his entire 10-year career with Chicago. "This is why we ride the buses in the minor leagues and play with broken appendages. This is what we bleed for. Cub fans have been suffering for a long time."
Against starter Shane Reynolds, Sosa fouled out in the first, singled in the third and struck out on a 3-2 pitch in the sixth.
"Man, he stinks," Grace joked. "What a lousy hitter he is -- no home runs today."
Sosa received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 51,950 each time he stepped to the plate, and a flurry of flashbulbs accompanied each pitch. He said he saw only two fastballs in the entire game, but he wasn't complaining.
"The home runs didn't come, but we got the win," he said. "That's what counts."
Mark Clark (9-14) limited the Astros to one run and five hits in eight innings. Beck allowed Jeff Bagwell's 34th homer and a double by Moises Alou to start the ninth, then pitched out of the jam for his 50th save thanks to Gregg's crucial call.
McGwire's first home run Saturday was replayed on the scoreboard before the top of the fifth inning. News of his second homer reached the Astrodome before the top of the ninth, and the inning ended with Sosa on deck.
Sosa has led McGwire in their friendly race only twice -- for less than an hour each time. Now, Sosa's best chance to catch up is for the Cubs to wind up in a playoff for the wild-card berth, which would give him an extra game.
But Sosa said he would trade his 66 homers for a victory Sunday.
"I'll be ready to go," he said. "It's a big game for us."
Notes: Cubs rookie right-hander Kerry Wood won't be available Sunday, manager Jim Riggleman said. Wood (13-6) hasn't pitched since August 31 because of a strained ligament in his right elbow. The Cubs hope he'll be able to return during the playoffs. ... Clark doubled in the fifth, then doubled again in the seventh when left fielder Moises Alou misplayed a routine fly. The doubles were Clark's first extra-base hits this year, raising his average to .065. ... The Astros have had nine crowds of more than 50,000 in 1998, compared with only four before this season. Their new ballpark opening in 2000 will seat 42,000.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.