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Sosa, Cubs power past Braves
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07/12/2003  4:26 PM ET 
Sosa, Cubs power past Braves
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa may not be on the All-Star team but in the last nine games, he sure looks like one.

    Sammy Sosa   /   RF
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 225
Bats/Throws: R/R

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Sosa hit his seventh home run in nine games and added an RBI single Saturday to power the Chicago Cubs to a 7-3 victory over Atlanta, snapping the Braves winning streak at eight games.

"I always play like an All-Star," Sosa said. "Maybe not for a lot of people, but I am."

Sosa connected in the Cubs' six-run fourth, and is batting .395 (15 for 38) in his last nine games with 13 RBIs. He ranks 14th on the all-time home run list with 517. Next up are Willie McCovey and Ted Williams at 521.

In 24 games since Sosa returned from serving a seven-game suspension for using a corked bat, he was batting .344 (32-for-93) with 12 homers and 23 RBIs. A six-time All-Star and the National League's top vote-getter last year, Sosa will skip the festivities. He finished fourth in the fan voting and was not named as a reserve.

"That's our superstar," Cubs catcher Damian Miller said of Sosa. "When the superstar starts swinging the bat, it helps the team."

"The weather's heating up, he likes the warm weather," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Sosa. "He's had a number of proper and repetitive at-bats. He's not over-swinging and pulling his head and trying to make up for the bat speed that wasn't there. You figure his hand strength is back just from swinging and hitting.

"It came right in the nick of time for us," Baker said, "and hopefully it carries through until late October."

The Cubs need a boost. With the win, they improved to 47-46. The Cubs started the day at .500 for the first time since April 11, and have not fallen below that mark all season.

    Mark Grudzielanek   /   2B
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 185
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
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Stats
Splits
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Cubs site

"We've just got to keep our heads up," Cubs second baseman Mark Grudzielanek said. "We've got a great team here. We're in most games and we've just been coming up short. We're a much better ballclub than a game over .500."

Matt Clement (7-7) picked up the win, holding the Braves to five hits over eight innings. He was efficient, and in one stretch retired 13 of 14. Clement struck out seven and did not walk a batter.

"It does feel good to get back to even," Clement said of his record. "I can't blame anybody but myself. I dug myself a little rut early."

He gave up a two-out home run to Rafael Furcal in the third, and kept the Braves off balance most of the game.

"That's a very, very good offensive team," Miller said of the Braves. "[Clement] did a great job of moving the ball in and out. He was effective in and as soon as we got guys looking in and he'd throw a sinker away and they'd roll it over."

  Matt Clement   /   P
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 195
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
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Rookie Horacio Ramirez (8-3) took the loss, his first in 13 starts since April 11. The left-hander gave up seven runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.

The Cubs hit for the cycle in the six-run fourth, sending 10 batters to the plate. Sosa led off with his 18th home run, driving a 1-0 pitch from Ramirez into the basket rimming the left field bleachers. Moises Alou then singled, Eric Karros walked and Alex Gonzalez hit an RBI double to make it 3-1.

Jose Hernandez followed with a two-run double, and two outs later, Grudzielanek hit an RBI double to chase Ramirez. Ramon Martinez greeted Kevin Gryboski with an RBI triple to make it 7-1.

    Jose Hernandez   /   SS
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 186
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
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"That was a big game for us," Baker said. "We needed that game badly because we were tail spinning some. That big inning has been eluding us. That two-out RBI has been eluding us."

Seeing Sosa heat up could be a motivating factor for the second half.

"It's been a long year for me," Sosa said. "I'm starting to feel more comfortable now. Little by little, I'm finding myself and being patient."

Sosa hasn't announced where he'll spend the All-Star break. He's most likely headed to his home in Miami. The Cubs open the second half against the Florida Marlins on Friday.

"Like everybody else, I'm looking forward to being away for a couple days," he said. "I'm going to look at the map to where I'm going to land. I don't know that yet."

Will he watch the game?

"I don't want to watch it," Sosa said.

What about the Home Run Derby?

"Maybe," he said.

He's got to get ready for the second half.

"We're going to have a good second half," Sosa said. "We haven't given up. We're there every game. We're still in there."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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