10/04/2003 11:39 PM ET
Big-time battle settles Game 4
Smoltz wins ninth-inning showdown with Sosa -- barely
CHICAGO -- It was one of the better matchups in National League Division Series history.
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
More than 39,000 fans at Wrigley Field saw one of the best home run hitters in baseball history against one of the best closers in the 21st century.
It was the bottom of the ninth inning between Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa and Atlanta Braves stopper John Smoltz in Game 4 on Saturday evening. Smoltz had already given up a run in that inning, an RBI double to catcher Damian Miller to cut the Braves' lead to 6-4.
Two outs later, Sosa was the tying run at the plate. Prior to this at-bat, Sosa hardly had any success against Smoltz during his career, going 4-for-38 -- none of those hits home runs -- with 18 strikeouts.
As it turned on Saturday, Sosa gave Smoltz a battle -- a seven-pitch battle. On a full count, Sosa took the seventh pitch and hit the ball to deep center field.
As his custom, Sosa jumped into the air, indicating that it was a home run and the score was tied at six. But it wasn't with the usual enthusiam Sosa's hop is known for.
Braves manager Bobby Cox thought it was gone. Left fielder Chipper Jones, who hit two home runs in the game, said that his heart jumped into his throat after Sosa hit the ball.
On TV, Smoltz could be seen bent over watching the flight of the ball. Braves center fielder Andrew Jones, however, caught the ball at the warning track for the last out of the game. The NLDS is now tied at two games apiece as the deciding fifth game will be played at Turner Field on
"That was a great at-bat. Everybody knows that Smoltz has been successful closer. I just wanted to have an opportunity to get a good pitch to hit," Sosa said. "I fought like a man. The last pitch was a little bit outside. That's why I couldn't get the full swing."
Said Smoltz, "I challenged him with what I had and he swung with what he had. Fortunately, he hit it off the end of his bat."
If the Cubs are to win Game 5 and advance to the National League Championship Series, Sosa must start hitting. In four
games, he is hitting .231 (3-for-13) with just one RBI.
Smoltz isn't exactly setting the world on fire for the
Braves either, giving up two runs in three innings.
Bill Ladson isa reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.