10/01/2003 6:16 PM ET
Sosa: I'll do whatever it takes
Cubs slugger shows aggressiveness on the basepaths
ATLANTA -- Sammy Sosa may not hit a home run in the NL Division Series, but he plans on making a difference.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"[I'll do] whatever it takes for us to win the game," Sosa said Wednesday before Game 2 of the series between the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.
In Game 1, Sosa stole second in the seventh inning -- his first theft of the season and third since the start of 2001.
"It's not hard to get a jump when they're not expecting you to jump," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said with a sly smile.
With one out in the ninth, Sosa singled and was out trying to stretch his hit into a double. It was aggressive baserunning.
"I like it a lot," Baker said. "He's showing that he still has speed."
"I'm trying to do something for the team," said Sosa, who has done plenty this season, hitting 40 homers and driving in 103 runs. "When they hear my name, they only think home runs but I'm trying to do other things, too.
"Anything I do will be valuable for the team," he said. "I used to steal a lot of bases. I haven't forgotten how."
Sosa was a 30-30 player in 1995, stealing 30 bases and hitting 30 home runs. Lately, his emphasis has been more on power than speed. This year, he became the first National League player to drive in 100 runs in nine straight seasons, the first NL player to hit 40 homers in six consecutive seasons and the third player in Major League history to have nine consecutive 35-homer, 100-RBI seasons.
"Sammy can still run," Baker said. "He was flying on that potential double [in the ninth]. It's still there. He's trying to stay healthy, too."
Sosa was on the disabled list for the first time since 1996 when a sore right big toe sidelined him for three weeks in May. It's hard to believe a big toe could stop his big bat but it did.
He came into the postseason batting .206 (21-for-102) in September, but he did have four home runs in his last 15 at-bats over four games. He entered Wednesday's game with five home runs in his last nine at-bats against Atlanta starter Mike Hampton.
"I've had good success against a lot of pitchers," Sosa said. "Hampton is a great pitcher. He has a good philosophy. Every time I have a chance to face one of those guys, I make more adjustments and am more patient at the plate. That's one of the reasons I've had success."
The climate has been perfect at Turner Field -- beautiful early fall weather, clear skies and an overload of Cubs fans.
"I saw so many Cubs fans rooting for us," Sosa said. "The crowd was unbelievable. We have so many Cubs fans all over the world but [Tuesday] was impressive. I'm looking forward to hearing them tonight."
And they were probably hoping Sosa would justify the last-minute air fare and launch one into the seats. The
weather will definitely change Friday at Wrigley Field. Rain is in the forecast for Game 3.
"This time of year, it doesn't matter if it's snowing," Sosa said.
It could be worse. He could be home watching the postseason. Rafael Palmeiro had a chance to be with the Cubs as well, but he opted to invoke his no-trade clause and stay with Texas. The Cubs instead added Randall Simon from Pittsburgh, and he batted .282 with Chicago.
"I'll tell you what, Rafael Palmeiro is my friend," Sosa said, "but he made a big mistake. Now he's home and watching us in the playoffs. I don't want to say anything wrong but that was a good opportunity for Palmeiro [to join the Cubs].
"When we heard that, we thought it was a good move for the whole team," Sosa said of Palmeiro. "But one reason we're here today is that we stayed together. We went to the next level and we made it.
"[Palmeiro] is probably sitting home, saying, 'Wow, if I would've taken the chance I would be here today,'" Sosa said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.