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Sosa helps deliver victory, but not a homer

4/4/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Sammy Sosa traveling show packed up and left
Shea Stadium on Thursday, still waiting for him to hit that elusive
500th home run.

For Slammin' Sammy, the trip was well worth it: no homers but
two victories.

"I'm not disappointed,'' he said. "We're winning, and I'm
contributing.''

With his mother, his wife, two brothers and other family members
and friends in the stands, Sosa drove in three runs with a pair of
singles as the Chicago Cubs beat the New York Mets 6-3.

"The ballclub is winning in a different way, without home runs,
and it's great,'' Sosa said.

Mark Prior pitched six sharp innings, Moises Alou drove in three
runs and Mark Grudzielanek scored three times. New manager Dusty
Baker's team took two of three, and the Cubs won an opening series
for the first time since 1999.

"Sammy had a big game. He hasn't hit a home run, but he has
four or five ribbies, and that's what counts,'' Baker said.

Sosa finished 3-for-7 with six walks overall in the series. He
lined a sharp, two-run single in the first, then came up with the
bases loaded and no outs in the third against former teammate Steve Trachsel.

Given a chance to become the first major leaguer to make his
500th home run a grand slam, Sosa got an infield single -- although
replays showed he was tagged by first baseman Jay Bell.

Sosa batted for the last time in the eighth. After throwing two
outside pitches, reliever Scott Strickland went ahead and
intentionally walked Sosa, prompting many of the 17,244 fans to boo
as they left the park.

"It's part of the game,'' Sosa said. "I'm at 499. At any
minute, at any time, I could hit it.''

Said Mets manager Art Howe: "He's going to have to get it
somewhere else.''

"I'm not just going to let Sammy add to his numbers against
us,'' Howe said.

Sosa's best shot at reaching the milestone so far came Wednesday
night, when he hit a long fly and started his signature home-run
hop before the ball was caught on the warning track.

"Too bad I couldn't do it here,'' Sosa said.

Now, Sosa takes his quest to become the 18th member of the 500
club to Cincinnati, where he could provide the new Great American
Ball Park with its first truly historic moment. Sosa will face
Danny Graves and the Reds on Friday night.

Prior (1-0) gave up four hits and one run while striking out
seven. None of the Mets hitters had ever faced him, and the strong,
22-year-old righty showed them why he should be a major force on
the mound for a long time.

Trachsel (0-1) was hit hard, and only the Cubs' poor baserunning
prevented them from scoring more.

Trachsel picked off Corey Patterson and Mark Bellhorn in
succession in the second. Sosa was thrown out at the plate trying
to score on Alou's two-run double in the third, then Alou was
nailed at home when he tagged up on a fly ball.

"It was kind of a weird game,'' Baker said. "You start wasting
those baserunners and it's like, 'Oh no!'''

Grudzielanek led off the game with a double and singled in the
third. His streak of five straight hits to start the season ended
when he grounded out the next time up.

The Mets again played without All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, who
served the second game of his four-game suspension. Vance Wilson
started in his place and had two hits, including a two-run single
in the ninth off Dave Veres.

Game notes
The last pitcher to pick off two runners in an inning was
Tampa Bay's Joe Kennedy last April 29. The last Mets pitcher to do
it was Turk Wendell on May 16, 2000, against Colorado in the 11th
inning. ... Trachsel was already a part of home-run history. He
gave up Mark McGwire's record 62nd homer in 1998. ... David Cone's
comeback will become complete Friday night when he starts for the
Mets against Montreal. Now 40, Cone has not pitched in the majors
since 2001 with Boston. ... Alou has doubled in each of the Cubs'
three games. ... Sosa has not homered in 24 career at-bats against
Graves. ... Bell made his first fourth career start at first base.
... The Cubs won two of three at Houston to start the 1999 season.