Sweep extra sweet for Cubs fans

Not in their wildest dreams did Cubs fans think it would come to this.

It's one thing for the Cubs to sweep the White Sox back to the South Side with a 13-7 victory before 39,320 fans, most of whom were mocking the Sox with an off-key rendition of "Na, na, hey, hey" in the ninth inning.

But it's quite another thing for the Cubs to do it so decisively, extending their winning streak to nine games and remaining in a first-place tie with Houston in the NL Central.

The nine-game streak is the team's longest since 1970, and they have won three straight three-game series for the first time since 1938.

Sammy Sosa hit his 10th home run in the last nine games in which he has played and drove in five runs, and Jose Hernandez also homered and drove in five runs as the Cubs hammered Mike Sirotka and James Baldwin.

"They had bragging rights last year," Mark Grace said. "We own the city for a year."

It was a tough series for Frank Thomas, who stranded two runners in the second when Jeremi Gonzalez (5-5) struck him out on an outside pitch, and two more in the fourth when Gonzalez retired him on a foul popup to the catcher on a 3-2 pitch.

Thomas and Albert Belle combined for only three runs batted in in the series, dooming the Sox's chances of outslugging the Cubs, their only realistic shot at winning with three young pitchers starting.

"There's really nothing to say," Thomas said. "They're a streaking team. They're hitting well, playing well and they took care of us. They came through time after time, and that's what hot teams do."

After the Sox grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first, Sosa hit a two-run double to left off Sirotka (6-6), Matt Mieske walked and Hernandez slugged a three-run homer to left to give the Cubs a 5-1 lead.

Scott Servais doubled home two runs with two outs in the third, and Gonzalez got into the act himself, stroking an RBI single to right to make it 8-1. One hit later, Sox manager Jerry Manuel finally decided to remove Sirotka.

Baldwin was no more effective than Sirotka. Hernandez doubled home two more runs on an 0-2 pitch in the fourth, and Sosa pounded a three-run home run in the fifth, giving the Cubs a 13-2 lead.

"No matter how many runs we had, I never felt comfortable," manager Jim Riggleman said.

Neither did Cubs fans, who wanted the Cubs to keep piling it on and began chanting "Sweep . . . sweep . . . sweep" after Sosa's home run.

"We've been riding Sammy the whole time and Sammy's just been terrific," Grace said. "Everybody's been great. Brant Brown wins a game for us. Derrick White wins a game for us. Sammy and Hernandez today. Solid pitching, terrific defense. We just played great baseball.

"When we put everything together like we have these last few games, we're tough to beat. I think we proved that against Atlanta. We beat them without Sammy and other guys had to step up. It's just been a lot of fun."

The fun moves to Minnesota on Monday, where the Cubs go for No. 10.