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Sosa on beaning: 'The helmet saved me'

4/20/2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- For a scary moment, neither the game nor their
excellent start mattered to the Chicago Cubs. Not when Sammy Sosa
was clutching at his broken helmet, a look of fear and anger
crossing his face.

Sosa got the biggest scare of his career Sunday when he was hit
in the batting helmet by a Salomon Torres fastball, but apparently
wasn't seriously hurt as Cubs lost 8-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The pitch struck Sosa with such force it left a hole in his
batting helmet, but neurological tests were negative. Sosa didn't
even have a headache after the game, only a few cuts caused by his
damaged helmet.

"The helmet saved me,'' said Sosa, who hit his 504th career
homer earlier in the game. "Yeah, I've never gotten hit like that
before.''

Torres (2-0), who shares the same Dominican Republic hometown as
Sosa, also was shaken but still pitched five shutout innings in
relief of injured Pittsburgh starter Josh Fogg. Fogg lasted only an
inning because of a strained abdominal muscle.

The Pirates won for only the second time in eight games and
ended the Cubs' five-game winning streak.

Sosa had no chance to duck away from Torres' up-and-in pitch
with the Pirates leading 7-2 in the fourth. Sosa initially glared
at Torres, then clutched at his helmet as he realized what had
happened.

Sosa never went down, though he looked dazed as trainer Dave
Tumbas asked him a series of questions. He walked off the field
without help and was examined by Pirates' doctors, then by those at
a nearby hospital. He returned to the clubhouse shortly after the
game ended.

Before the game, Sosa and Torres exchanged greetings near the
Pirates' bullpen and wished each other luck.

"I never meant to hit him,'' said Torres, who was out of
organized baseball for five seasons before joining the Pirates last
season. "I felt very badly about it. We're from the same town and
he's like an idol to me.''

Sosa tied Eddie Murray for 17th place on the career homer list
with his two-run shot in the first off Fogg, who injured an
abdominal muscle while batting in his previous start.

"Once he got on the mound, you could tell he didn't have
anything,'' manager Lloyd McClendon said.

Torres limited the Cubs to one hit through the sixth inning,
only to be lifted himself after being hit in the left knee by Juan Cruz's pitch in the sixth.

"They told me a couple of days ago they might need me for this
game,'' Torres said. "So I paid close attention and really went
over all the hitters in my head as (Saturday night's) game went
along, in case I had to pitch.''

The Pirates, held to three runs or fewer in 12 of their previous
13 games, took advantage of some poor Cubs infield defense and
Shawn Estes' wildness to open the 7-2 lead in the third. Estes
(1-2) allowed seven hits and walked three in three innings.

"We didn't play good defense,'' manager Dusty Baker said. "It
was 5-2 in the second, and it should have been 2-2. I'm
disappointed because we didn't play a very good game.''

Pokey Reese's two-run single -- his only hit of the series -- and
third baseman Mark Bellhorn's two-base error on Torres' bunt keyed
the five-run second. The Pirates scored more runs in the inning
than they did in all but one of their previous 13 games.

The Pirates twice got hits on grounders that second baseman Mark Grudzielanek couldn't make a play on, Reese's single between first
and second and Kenny Lofton's two-run single.

"The baseball gods owed us that,'' Lofton said. "We've been
hitting the ball hard but had nothing to show for it.''

Pittsburgh had been held to nine runs while losing four of their
first five to the Cubs.

Before his big scare, Sosa hit his fifth homer of the season and
475th with the Cubs. It was his fourth homer in nine games and ran
his hitting streak to 10 games. Sosa needs seven homers to tie Mel
Ott for 16th place and eight to tie Ernie Banks and Eddie Matthews
for 14th place.

Game notes
Joe Beimel, Brian Boehringer and Scott Sauerbeck followed
Torres with a scoreless relief inning each. ... The Pirates didn't
commit an error for only the fourth time in 18 games. ...
Pittsburgh is 6-0 when scoring more than four runs. ... Lofton was
2-for-26 in seven games before getting three hits. ... The Cubs
were denied only their second series sweep in two seasons. ...
Estes was the first Cubs starter to lose in six games. ... Reese
had six strikeouts and grounded into a double play in his other
seven at-bats in the series.