Sammy Sosa found the ideal fuel Sunday to get the Cubs off to New York in good spirits.
In his last at-bat in Cinergy Field, which will be replaced by a new park next year, Sosa broke a scoreless game with a 421-foot, three-run homer, his 46th of the season and No. 496 of his career.
The eighth-inning blast ignited a 6-0 Cubs victory and a series split with the Reds as they head to New York for a three-game series with the Mets beginning Tuesday night. Sosa, however, was in no mood to celebrate.
"This is not the time to celebrate," he said. "This has been a really tough year. I've worked so hard. It would have been better if we were in a pennant race. I would have enjoyed that more."
Sosa's homer raised his RBI total for the season to 102. He joined Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Willie Mays as the only National Leaguers who reached or exceeded 100 RBIs eight years in a row. Jimmie Foxx had nine straight seasons of 100 or more RBIs in the American League.
"The thing about Sammy is that he never gives away an at-bat," manager Bruce Kimm said. "Pete Rose and Tony Gwynn were like that about hits. But with Sammy's power, every time at bat could be a home run."
Sosa drove Reggie Taylor to the warning track in deep center to catch his high drive in the first inning. Third baseman Aaron Boone threw out Sosa his next two times up, once on a hard-hit smash.
Sosa's homer made a winner of Carlos Zambrano. The 21-year-old, 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound native of Venezuela shut out the Reds on six hits and struck out eight in seven innings.
"I was feeling good," Zambrano said. "Everything was in command. My sinker was good, and my splitter was good."
Rookie second baseman Bobby Hill celebrated his return to the lineup after a one-game absence due to a bruised hand by hitting a three-run homer in the ninth.
Pinch-hitter Chris Stynes singled to lead off the eighth. Hill then worked reliever Scott Sullivan for a walk in an at-bat Kimm called "even more important than his home run." Corey Patterson flied out, bringing up Sosa.
At times, Zambrano was dominating. He fired 19 swinging strikes among his 115 pitchers. Russell Branyan and Wily Mo Pena swung and missed at five straight pitches in the fifth inning.
"Zambrano was outstanding," Kimm said. "He had some 94s and a couple of 96s [m.p.h.] up on the board. He got in trouble, but he didn't panic."