10/09/2003 1:24 AM ET
Sammy is slammin' again
Sosa homers for a second consecutive game
CHICAGO -- Slammin' Sammy is back.
After a disappointing National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, in which he hit .188 and did not go deep, Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa roared back to form Wednesday night.
Sosa hit a 495-foot moonshot to center field in the second inning as part of his 1-for-3 night. He walked twice and scored twice, driving in two runs with the monster homer en route to a 12-3 Cubs victory. It was his second homer in as many nights in the Championship Series.
Sosa shrugged off talk about the length of Wednesday's shot, which bounced of the camera box in the second deck of the left-center field bleachers.
"I was just so happy to have a chance to produce and help us have a chance to win this ballgame," he said.
But his teammates sure were impressed. First baseman Randall Simon said he and Doug Glanville were talking about the possibility of a long ball seconds before it left Sosa's bat.
"And we turned at the same moment to see a home run," Simon said. "I've never seen anybody hit a ball like he did. That's impressive. It's unbelieveable."
Believe it. Sosa is a threat every time he steps to the plate, although an infected toenail and suspension for using an illegal bat slowed him somewhat this year. Sosa also overcame a beaning by Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Salomon Torres that shattered his batting helmet and shook him up April 20.
Lucky for Sosa, the Marlins play in a warm-weather climate, and he thrives on the heat and humidity, as evidenced by his 13 homers in July, a big-league high.
Sosa ended the season with 539 career homers, 10th on the Major League list. He hit .279, with 40 homers and 103 RBIs. And he is the first player in National League history to have six consecutive 40-homer seasons.
But success in the postseason had eluded him against Atlanta. He struck out four times in 16 at-bats and walked six times in the NLDS.
"Unfortunately, I didn't have that much luck in the Atlanta series," he said. "But I never panic because I know what I can do. And you (saw that) yesterday and today, too."
Sosa launched a two-out, ninth-inning homer as part of his 1-for-5, two-RBI night Tuesday to send the game to extra innings in the Cubs' eventual 9-8 loss. It was the first postseason homer of his career after playing three games in the 1998 NLDS and five games in the 2003 NLDS.
By Amy Sternig / MLB.com
Cubs manager Dusty Baker said this is the prime time for Sosa to show up for the team.
"I don't think he's really had anything to prove with 500 home runs," Baker said. "It's just the first time he's been in the postseason for a while. You know when Sammy gets one of those hot streaks, he gets a home run every at-bat. And I'm hoping this is on the way. Boy, it's coming on at the right time."
Sosa is not getting the Barry Bonds treatment from the Marlins, who issued free passes to the San Francisco Giants slugger six times in four NLDS games. Sosa said he's not worried about how the Marlins treated Bonds.
"If they walk me, I go to first base," he said. "If they pitch me, I take whatever they give me."
Sosa was intentionally walked nine times in the regular season, out of his 62 free passes.
Marlins manager Jack McKeon still plans to pitch to Sosa. "What's wrong with pitching to Sammy Sosa," he asked. "Because he hit a home run? Did he beat us?"
Sosa still plans to approach things the same way.
"In this series, I have been more patient," Sosa said. "I have a plan. This is the second round, and in the second round, you probably know or do some different things.
"One thing I'll do Friday is still wait for a pitch in the strike zone and make them throw a strike."
Sosa will have more reason than normal to perform above expectations. He makes his offseason home in Miami and said many friends and family members will be at the game, many coming up from the Dominican Republic.
Fellow countryman Moises Alou, who hits behind Sosa in the Cubs lineup and should have a large cheering section of his own, said it's not going to be easy.
"It's not gonna be friendly," Alou said. "If you've got 65,000 people going to the game, it's gonna be tough to hear our fans there."
But Sosa is confident he's going to hear his contingent no matter what.
"It's like Christmas for me, going to Miami, having a chance to sleep in my own bed," Sosa said. "It's going to be awesome. Hopefully I continue the same plan and do good over there. I feel 90 percent we have a chance to win on Friday."
Amy Sternig is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.