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Sosa & Co. have a blast at Petco
Sammy Sosa passed Mike Schmidt in style Saturday night at Petco Park, blasting a two-run homer into a party suite to take sole possession of ninth place on the all-time home run list.
Sosa's two-run shot off San Diego starter Adam Eaton, the 549th of his career, was one of three Cubs homers in a 7-5 win over San Diego before a crowd of 42,064.
"We scored a lot of runs in a hurry," manager Dusty Baker said. "That's what this offense is capable of doing."
The Cubs remained one game behind first-place Houston, winning their third straight on the West Coast swing and improving to 21-15. They'll go for their second straight sweep over the Padres in San Diego on Sunday, when left-hander Glendon Rusch makes a spot start for Kerry Wood, facing Padres veteran David Wells.
Rookie Sergio Mitre (2-2) earned his first victory since April 21, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings. LaTroy Hawkins retired all four batters he faced for his third save.
Mitre grew up about 12 blocks away from Petco, and had 20 family members and friends at the game.
"Sergio kept us right there," Baker said. "He got us deep into the ballgame. He did well, especially here in front of his home folks."
"I took the same approach," Mitre said. "The only thing different was pitching in my hometown."
Moises Alou had four hits, including his ninth home run, and Aramis Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the fifth, the 100th HR of his career.
Sosa's milestone home run, however, was the talk of the town. The game was tied 2-2 in the fifth when Sosa stepped in with a runner on second and one out. He hit a sky-high foul ball down the third-base line on a 2-0 pitch from Eaton but got new life when shortstop Khalil Greene misjudged the ball and let it drop a foot away from him.
Sosa made the most of his second chance, cranking a line drive into a suite of the Western Metal Supply Company building, a historic warehouse dating to 1909 that was renovated and incorporated into the new ballpark.
Sosa came into the series with 20 home runs in 200 at-bats in San Diego, which has always been an accommodating place for him. "In the other park," he said Friday, referring to Qualcomm Stadium, which was abandoned by the Padres when they moved into Petco.
But now Sosa is picking up at Petco where he left off at Qualcomm. His fifth-inning shot off Eaton gave him at least one home run in 39 different major-league parks, with a trip to Philadelphia's new park on tap for late July. Sosa needs 15 home runs to pass Reggie Jackson for eighth place on the all-time list, and 25 to pass Harmon Killebrew for seventh place.
"Right now I don't have my mind on the long ball," Sosa said after tying Schmidt on Friday. "Right now my mind is to come here every day and help the ballclub."
Baker gave Sosa a rare day off on Thursday in Los Angeles, and Sosa has responded with home runs in back-to-back games. In the past, Sosa would've tried to talk his manager into leaving him in the starting lineup. But Baker convinced Sosa it would be beneficial to his career to take a breather every now and then, and apparently it's worked.
"I feel much better, more relaxed at the plate," Sosa said.
Sosa's 434-foot homer was the longest in the 21-game history of Petco Park, a pitchers' paradise through the first quarter of the Padres' home schedule. The Padres had hit 10 home runs there in their first 20 games, while the Cubs hit five in two games at Petco.