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Sosa hits career HR No. 497 in defeat

9/17/2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jeromy Burnitz probably expected to be in a
pennant race this September. Instead, he's just trying to salvage a
lost season.

Burnitz hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the New York Mets a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

Acquired in a trade with Milwaukee last winter, Burnitz is wrapping up a miserable year for himself and his team with a surprising surge. He's hitting .300 this month with seven home runs and 14 RBI.

"He finally found that elusive stroke of his,'' Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "He has his balance, his leg kick. I don't know why it's been such a long search.''

Sammy Sosa hit his 497th career homer and 47th of the season for
the Cubs in a matchup of two of baseball's most disappointing
teams.

Edgardo Alfonzo hit a one-out single off Juan Cruz (2-11) in the ninth, and Burnitz lifted a 3-2 pitch over the right-field fence for his 19th home run.

Burnitz, who had four straight 30-homer seasons with the
Brewers, is still batting only .220 with 53 RBI. But he's hit four
long balls in his last three games.

"Since this month started, I've definitely had some better
at-bats,'' he said. "It's just come together the last two weeks.
The fact is, my stroke was pretty much gone for most of the year.''

Burnitz was mobbed by his teammates after rounding the bases.

"To get beat up at home plate, that's a good feeling,'' he
said.

David Weathers (6-3) struck out Mark Bellhorn and Alex Gonzalez with two on to end the ninth.

New York snapped a three-game losing skid and won its fourth in
a row at Shea Stadium following an NL-record 15-game home losing
streak.

Sosa crushed Al Leiter's first pitch in the fourth an estimated
455 feet over the left-field bullpen, drawing cheers from a sparse
crowd announced at 36,772. Many of those who showed up surely came
to see Sosa, not the Mets.

"It's great to be in that situation, no question about it,''
Sosa said. "I'm proud of everything I've accomplished and the way
I play, and that's how you earn respect. New York is like a second
home. I have a lot of friends here and a lot of people from my
country that support me.''

Three homers shy of 500 for his career and a record fifth 50-homer season, Sosa has gone deep in two straight games.

"I really don't want to put myself thinking about that,'' Sosa said. "I'm not going to put pressure on myself.''

Leiter gave up four hits in 8 1-3 innings, striking out eight. He has allowed just two runs in his last three starts, a span of 24 1/3 innings.

Chicago's Alan Benes got himself in and out of major trouble in the third. He gave up a leadoff single to Rey Ordonez and walked Leiter, who was trying to bunt.

Roger Cedeno did bunt, dropping a dandy up the third-base line
for a hit that loaded the bases with nobody out. But Benes got
Roberto Alomar to ground into a double play, scoring Ordonez, and
retired Mike Piazza on a fly to center.

Alomar also popped out with two on to end the fifth.

After missing most of the last four years recovering from two shoulder operations, Benes made his fifth start since coming up from Triple-A Iowa on Aug. 23. He allowed only four hits in seven innings -- another strong effort as he tries to re-establish himself in the majors.

"I think the thing that sticks out about Alan is, he knows how
to pitch. He has a plan,'' catcher Joe Girardi said. "His arm's
coming all the way back finally. Nobody wants to leave the game
because of injuries. He's battled hard to get back. I'm happy for
him.''

Game notes
The Mets made two errors, pushing their major
league-leading total to 135. ... The Cubs and Mets, former NL East
rivals, had not played since April 11 at Wrigley Field. ... Ordonez
struck out swinging on a pitch clearly over his head in the
seventh. ... Benes lasted seven innings for the third time in his
last four outings. He made his first start against the Mets since
May 10, 1997, in St. Louis. ... Corey Patterson made a sliding
catch in shallow center to deny Cedeno a hit leading off the
eighth. ... Esix Snead, who has 432 steals in five minor league
seasons, entered as a pinch-runner in the eighth for the Mets and
was caught stealing by Girardi.