<
>

McGriff first with 30-homer season for five teams

9/22/2002

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Overlooked amid the Pittsburgh Pirates' 10th
consecutive losing season is a positive sign they have long
awaited: Kris Benson again looks like a No. 1 starter.

Rob Mackowiak's tiebreaking single capped Pittsburgh's three-run
rally in the fifth inning, helping Benson win his fifth straight
decision as the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 on Sunday.

Sammy Sosa went 1-for-3 with a single and needs two homers in
the Cubs' final six games for 500 in his career and 50 for a
record-setting fifth straight season.

Fred McGriff did set a home run record, hitting a two-run drive
in the first that made him the first player with a 30-homer season
for five teams. He also homered in a record 42nd major league park,
one more than Cleveland's Ellis Burks.

''Do I take pride in this? Yeah,'' McGriff said. ''Every year
you try to set goals, and I try to hit at least 30 homers and drive
in at least 100 runs. So it's nice.''

McGriff's homer into PNC Park's right-field seats followed Chad
Hermansen's single and was one of two homers allowed by Benson
(9-6), who was lifted in the fifth trailing 4-1. He gave up three
runs and five hits in one of the few below-average starts he's made
since the All-Star break.

Hermansen, the longtime Pirates prospect, hit a solo homer on a
3-2 pitch in the fifth, his first since being traded to the Cubs on
July 31. He homered seven times for the Pirates before the trade.

The Pirates' comeback assured Benson of a winning record in a
season he started 0-4. He returned in mid-May after missing 18
months following reconstructive elbow surgery and didn't win until
his ninth start, on June 25.

''I don't like going five innings, but I guess that's the way
it's got to be so my arm can come back strong next year,'' said
Benson, who is on a 90-pitch limit. ''It definitely helps your
confidence when you have some games you don't perform well and
still come out with a win.''

Since the right-hander was 0-4 with a 7.79 ERA in eight starts,
he is 9-2 with a 3.57 ERA in his last 17 starts, with one more to
go next weekend in Chicago.

''We didn't think he would be quite this good so quickly,''
manager Lloyd McClendon said.

The Pirates' fifth started with pinch-hitter Adrian Brown's
single off Alan Benes (2-2), who made his first start against
Pittsburgh since May 21, 1997.

Pokey Reese doubled and Jack Wilson's single scored Brown. After
Brian Giles' sacrifice fly, Joe Borowski replaced Benes and got
Aramis Ramirez to pop up, then appeared to pick Wilson off first
base.

But Wilson slid in under the tag as first baseman McGriff's
throw to second was slightly high and wide. Wilson scored on
Mackowiak's single.

''From the dugout, it looked like he was out, but the umpire
(Angel Hernandez) was right on top of it,'' Cubs manager Bruce Kimm
said. ''It ended up being a pretty big play.''

Bronson Arroyo replaced Benson and pitched two innings of
hitless relief, striking out three, before Brian Boehringer worked
a scoreless eighth.

Mike Williams got three outs for his 44th save in 48
opportunities, despite allowing an RBI single to Mark Bellhorn.
Hermansen grounded out with runners at the corners to end it, with
Sosa on deck.

''My arm is a little tired and every one (save) won't be
perfect, but we still got the win,'' Williams said.,

Williams hadn't pitched since giving up a decisive grand slam to
Cincinnati's Kelly Stinnett on Thursday, only his fourth blown save
of the season.

The Pirates also scored in the third on Wilson's walk, Giles'
single and Ramirez's sacrifice fly off Benes. They added what
proved to be the decisive run in the seventh much the same way when
Wilson walked, Giles singled and Ramirez grounded into a double
play.

The Cubs, already assured of a 90-loss season, went 31-50 on the
road. They wrap up their season with six games at Wrigley Field
beginning Tuesday.

Game notes
McGriff is the first Cubs first baseman to hit 30 homers in
a season since Ernie Banks had 32 in 1968. He also had three
30-homer seasons with Toronto, two with San Diego and one each with
Atlanta and Tampa Bay. ... Benson has lasted five innings in five
straight starts since pitching eight innings Aug. 25 against
Milwaukee. ... Benson was 0-2 with a 15.00 ERA in his first two
starts against the Cubs this season. ... Giles is 10-for-18 in his
last five games.