Cubs flex some muscle

One of the common misconceptions about Wrigley Field is that it's a hitters' park because the wind usually blows out during the summer.

But according to the Wrigley wind trends, a statistic the Cubs began tracking several years ago, the wind has blown in 61.2 percent of the time since the start of the 1998 season, making it a pitchers' paradise more often than not.

It was blowing in again on a chilly Thursday afternoon, but that didn't prevent the first-place Cubs from pounding out four home runs for the second straight day in a 16-3 romp over Cincinnati.

Kerry Wood wasn't at peak form on the mound, but he improved to 3-0 with a six-inning stint that included a two-run homer in the fifth, the fifth of his career. Sammy Sosa, who hit a three-run shot onto Waveland Avenue that bounced off an apartment building across the street on one hop, Hee Seop Choi and Mark Grudzielanek also homered as the Cubs finished their first homestand with a 7-3 record. Last year they went 36-45 at home.

"You want to establish that it's difficult for someone else to win on your home turf," manager Dusty Baker said. "It's like when we were kids, playing Ping-Pong on your table or basketball at your house. It's very devastating when you can't win at your house and really tough when you go to their house. It's very important to establish some home-field superiority."

Sosa and Choi each have homered in three straight games, two shy of the Cubs record of five straight that Hack Wilson set in 1928, Ryne Sandberg tied in 1989 and Sosa equaled in 1998.

"Hopefully we can continue that," Sosa said. "It'd be nice. I feel happy for Choi, coming through like that to help Moises [Alou] and myself. Right now it's easy for everybody because we're all swinging the bat well."

Sosa, Grudzielanek and Mark Bellhorn drove in three runs apiece, and Corey Patterson went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple. The Cubs staked Wood to a 4-0 first-inning lead with a two-out rally off Jimmy Haynes (0-4). Patterson's single scored Sosa and Alou before Bellhorn singled home Choi and Patterson to make it 4-0. They led 6-1 in the fifth when Wood blasted an opposite-field shot off Haynes.

"I don't know how it made it out," Wood said. "I didn't think I had a chance when I hit it."

Wood recorded only three strikeouts and walked three in his six innings, but his presence alone makes the Cubs offense relax at the outset.

"You know you're going to be in the game and you're not pressured so much to score," Grudzielanek said. He said sometimes hitters think they need to give a pitcher an early boost.

"With Wood and some of the guys we have on this team, you don't have to do that. They'll shut the [other] team down."

The Cubs had 16 hits, including nine for extra bases, to win their fourth series in five attempts.

"It's a great feeling to play like that in April," Sosa said. "We know we have a chance to have a great year."

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