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Sosa Hits No. 54 In Cubs Win


Sammy Sosa wouldn't speculate on whether it was the longest homer he had ever hit. But his manager would.

Sosa hit his 54th homer to tie Mark McGwire for the major-league lead, and Kevin Tapani pitched seven strong innings as the Chicago Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3 Sunday.

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  • Sosa remained ahead of Roger Maris' record 61-homer pace, putting the Cubs ahead 2-0 in the first with a towering, 482-foot homer off the Coca-Cola sign adjacent to the scoreboard in left field.

    The two-run shot off Darryl Kile (10-15) was the longest homer at Coors Field this season and the fifth-longest in the ballpark's history.

    "I never watch my homers because I have a lot of respect for the home team," Sosa said, "but as soon as I hit it, I knew it was out of the ballpark. I just didn't know how far away it was going to land. I made good contact on a slider."

    Cubs manager Jim Riggleman was awed by the homer.

    "I think that is the best ball I've ever seen hit," he said. "Sammy may say another one felt better or traveled farther, but that was some shot."

    Sosa, who homered in the second and fourth games of the series, is now two homers shy of Hack Wilson's NL record, set in 1930.

    "I'm lucky I got two," Soa said. "Guys are getting used to me, and they're not going to give me a lot of pitches to hit. They pitched me tough here."

    "Last night, I was swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, and when you do that you're not going to give yourself a chance. I came back today and tuned out everything and was patient."

    In Sosa's subsequent at-bats, he popped out to the catcher in foul territory, struck out and walked.

    Jose Hernandez and Gary Gaetti also homered for the Cubs, who won the series 3-1.

    Tapani (16-7) equaled his

    Sammy Sosa
    Sammy Sosa has had the pleasure of performing his home-run dance 54 times this season. (AP)
    career high for wins in a season, holding the Rockies to six hits and one run in seven innings. He exited after yielding a leadoff double to pinch-hitter John Vander Wal in the eighth.

    Rod Beck walked two batters in the ninth before getting two outs for his 39th save.

    "Darryl pitched Sosa well after the home run," Rockies manager Don Baylor said. "But that was a breaking ball he didn't miss."

    Baylor said he wasn't surprised that Sosa was cheered in an opposing park.

    "If you're a baseball fan, you have to get excited about it," Baylor said. "That's the game itself. I mean, there's records out there that are standing, and when guys get close, you have to be a fan on either side, home or away."

    Asked if he thought Sosa could break Maris' record, Baylor said: "Well, I know he had 20 homers in a month (June), and he has another month left. You have to look at both guys having a chance to do it."

    Hernandez led off the second with his third homer of the series and 21st of the year, a drive that squirted out of the glove of leaping right fielder Walker just above the wall.

    Chicago made it 4-0 in the fourth on Gaetti's 443-foot solo shot to left. Larry Walker countered with a solo homer in the Rockies' half.

    Tapani retired the first seven batters he faced before Kirt Manwaring singled in the third. Walker ended his shutout bid with his homer in the fourth.

    Tapani benefited from superb defense in the sixth as both first baseman Mark Grace and third baseman Gaetti stabbed line drives.

    Colorado got two runs in the eighth. After Vander Wal's double, pinch-hitter Terry Shumpert had an RBI single off reliever Terry Mulholland. Shumpert went to second on a groundout and scored on Bichette's bloop single off Matt Karchner.

    Notes

  • Tapani also won 16 games in 1991 and 1992 with Minnesota.
  • Colorado's Vinny Castilla extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
  • Bichette caught a line drive by Gaetti in the sixth and doubled up Tyler Houston, who had strayed off second base. It was Bichett's 14th assist this season, tying his own club record set in 1993.
  • Tapani has won eight of his last nine decisions and is 4-0 in his last six starts.
  • Kile finished with 12 strikeouts, his second-highest total of the year.
  • Perez's single in the sixth snapped an 0-for-15 slump.

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