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Sosa's HR quiets boo-birds
Sammy Sosa was drowning in boos Wednesday at Wrigley Field before stepping up against Cincinnati reliever Todd Van Poppel during a seventh-inning downpour.
That is until Sosa lined a 3-0 pitch into the basket in left field for a solo home run that gave the Cubs a 5-4 victory over the Reds and snapped a three-game losing streak.
It was a sweet ending to a very difficult day for Sosa, who is surprised and hurt to hear the boos in the place he calls "my house."
After striking out against Reds starter Paul Wilson on two pitches out of the zone in the first and fifth innings, leaving him 4-for-26 since the All-Star break, Sosa was shocked at the negative reaction from the crowd of 38,761.
"I was like, 'Wow, what have I done?'" Sosa said. "But it's part of the game. We're just human beings. Sometimes when they want us to come through, it's not going to happen. They have to understand we need some support. We need some love, because if not, everyone is going to start panicking. Every position will think 'I have to make the perfect throw, or I have to make the perfect pitch because I don't want somebody to boo me.'
"Last year we played good baseball and everyone was happy. This year we're up and down because of the injuries we've had. They have to remember all those things. We go out there and play hard every day. Nothing else we can do about it. Now, if we don't play hard every day and we're sleeping, that's something else."
The Cubs awoke from their post-All Star game hibernation behind two-run homers by Moises Alou and Derrek Lee to forge a 4-4 tie in the sixth on Lee's blast off Wilson. The rains began in the top of the seventh and Todd Wellemeyer bailed out of a bases-loaded jam when he got John Vander Wal on a called third strike on the outside corner.
The game resumed after a 54-minute delay, and Sosa's two-out homer was a virtual repeat of his rain-drenched homer against the White Sox on July 3 at Wrigley.
With the Cubs virtually having eliminated themselves from the division race, general manager Jim Hendry hopes to add some relief help and an extra bat to get them through the wild-card chase.
"You can't assume the Cardinals will stumble drastically," Hendry said. "But you don't need to worry about it anymore. It's time to win as many games as you can, and it really doesn't matter who we're playing."
The Cubs would like an upgrade at shortstop, but Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra isn't likely to come in a trade, Cleveland's Omar Vizquel doesn't want to waive his no-trade rights and Montreal's Orlando Cabrera is struggling with a .231 average.
Hendry also might have to decide whether an incendiary closer like Detroit's Ugueth Urbina would fit into this atmosphere if he were to become available.
"I'm going about it like I was before the last [few] days, which, obviously, were not good for us," Hendry said. "Some devastating losses, a lot of frustration that was spewed out that I wish was channeled in a different way.
"At the same time, those things happen a few times a year to everyone. We have to move forward and right the ship. Everyone knows I always would be in pursuit of something that made sense."
The booing of Sosa may be a signal many Cubs fans have lost patience with this team, although manager Dusty Baker remains confident things will turn around.
"It's a test of your faith and your belief," Baker said. "Faith is a hard sell around here."
Ninety-six years without a championship will do that.