Kerry Wood can celebrate his 21st birthday by buying Sammy Sosa the beverage of his choice.
Sosa’s second career three-homer game powered the Chicago Cubs to a 6-5 victory at Chicago against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.
Sosa hit solo homers against Cal Eldred in the first, third and seventh innings for his 26th career multi-homer game and fourth this year. Fans celebrated Sosa’s three-homer game by throwing caps onto the field from the bleachers.
“I’m just trying to go out there and do my job and make contact,” said Sosa, who has 15 homers and 32 runs batted in over his last 16 games. “The more patient you are up there, the more you can hit.”
Hitting coach Jeff Pentland has been working on Sosa’s plate discipline since spring training with impressive results. Sosa has 32 walks this season after drawing only 45 all last season. A career .257 hitter, Sosa is batting .335 this season.
“Sammy puts a lot of pressure on himself because of who he is,” Pentland said. “He’s the most physically talented player I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with [Barry] Bonds and [Gary] Sheffield.
“All I’ve tried to do is get him on the right path,” Pentland said.
The Cubs broke a 5-5 tie in the eighth on one-out singles by Jose Hernandez and Scott Servais against Doug Jones. Manny Alexander followed with a sacrifice fly to left, to score Hernandez and give the Cubs their second win in their last six games.
Wood, the Cubs’ rookie who celebrates his 21st birthday Tuesday, struck out nine in 7 1/3 innings.
Wood gave up five runs on three hits and six walks. He struggled with his control in the first four innings, throwing fewer strikes than balls--30 strikes among the 62 pitches. But he struck out Jose Valentin to end the fourth, and retired the next nine in a row.
Wood now has 107 strikeouts in 12 starts, including his record-setting 20-strikeout effort last month against Houston.
Cub Manager Jim Riggleman and catcher Sandy Martinez were both ejected for arguing plate umpire Wally Bell’s calls after Wood walked both Bobby Hughes and pinch-hitter Bob Hamelin to start the eighth.
Philadelphia 2, Pittsburgh 1--Matt Beech struck out a career-high 11 and limited the Pirates to four hits in eight innings at Philadelphia.
Desi Relaford extended his hitting streak to 10 games, tops among NL rookies this year, and drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the sixth.
Beech (3-3) topped his career high of nine strikeouts, set in his previous start against Baltimore on June 9. Mark Leiter pitched the ninth for his 13th save.
The Phillies lost the first 14 starts Beech made last year. Throughout the losing, Beech said he kept learning lessons.
“Eventually, after getting my butt kicked so many times, I had to learn from it,” the left-hander said. “Hopefully, I’m continuing to learn, continuing to get better.”
Pirate Manager Gene Lamont said Beech looks like he believes in himself more this season, and that he’s throwing the ball harder.
“Beech’s control was real good, and it looks like he’s built some velocity from last year,” Lamont said.
Jon Lieber (4-8) was the hard-luck loser, giving up two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Relaford went two-for-three, improving to 14 for 37 (.378) during his hitting streak.
Houston 13, Cincinnati 2--Derek Bell drove in three runs with a pair of doubles and Jeff Bagwell hit a two-run homer at Cincinnati as the Astros finished a successful trip.
The Astros went 5-2 in Detroit and Cincinnati to gain sole possession of first place in the NL Central. The Astros have won seven of nine overall, matching the 1970 club for best start in Houston history at 42-26.
By splitting the four-game series, the Reds remained at a season-low 10 games under .500 (30-40). Cincinnati has lost 10 of its last 13 games.
The Astros coasted after scoring six runs against Brett Tomko (5-6) in only 2 1/3 innings. Tomko has lost his last five decisions and been rocked in his last three starts, giving up 18 runs in 13 1/3 innings.
J.R. Phillips finished off Houston’s 17-hit game with a three-run homer in the ninth against Gabe White.
Houston starter Mike Hampton came back after a 50-minute rain delay in the third inning, but left the game with a strained groin after his sacrifice bunt in the top of the fourth.
Mike Magnante (3-1) pitched three scoreless innings to get the win and also singled home a run with his first major league hit in four career at-bats.
Colorado 4, San Francisco 3--Ellis Burks hit a two-run homer as the Rockies scored three runs in the 12th at San Francisco to beat the Giants, who lost their fifth game in a row.
Larry Walker led off the 12th with a double against John Johnstone. Dante Bichette followed with a single and Walker scored on a throwing error by right fielder Chris Jones, who entered the game three innings earlier.
Burks followed with his 12th homer of the season, a shot to right-center that was his first home run since May 8.
J.T. Snow hit a two-run homer for the Giants against Jerry Dipoto in the bottom of the 12th, his second homer of the game, but Dipoto retired the next three batters for the victory.
San Francisco’s Barry Bonds was sidelined with severe neck spasms. Bonds, who missed just his second game of the season, was listed as day-to-day.
The first nine innings featured a pitching duel between Shawn Estes of the Giants and John Thomson of the Rockies.
Estes gave up only one run and three hits in nine innings and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts.
The Rockies struck out a franchise-worst 17 times.