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Sosa Comes Out Of Funk As Cubs Defeat Mets

May 4, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ Sammy Sosa was in one of those hitting funks where he could barely make contact with the ball.

He was 0-for-18 and had managed only two hits with 16 strikeouts in his previous 28 at-bats. No wonder the New York Mets walked Mark Grace intentionally to pitch to Sosa with two outs in the ninth inning Friday.

Sosa, who’d looked especially futile with two strikeouts against rookie Paul Wilson, wasn’t insulted by the move. He just made the Mets regret it.

``They know Grace is a better hitter than I am, and I had been struggling, too,″ Sosa said after he crossed up the strategy with a three-run homer on the first pitch to give the Cubs a 4-2 victory.

``That’s the reason why they did that. And I’ve had a tough time lately. Sometimes when they do that to any player, that player has to be ready to go up and do something like that. It was something that made me say: `Keep going.‴

Mets manager Dallas Green went with the percentages and decided to leave Wilson in because the 6-foot-5 right-hander had allowed only two hits in the first eight innings.

``Grace is a great hitter, so I thought he could be walked and Paul could go ahead and attack the right-handed hitter,″ Green said. ``I knew Sosa hasn’t been hitting well. This is a heartbreaker.″

Wilson (1-2) allowed a first-inning triple to Ryne Sandberg and a single to Grace, then retired 16 straight before walking Sandberg to start the bottom of the seventh.

With the Mets leading 2-1, pinch-hitter Scott Bullett opened the ninth with a bunt single for the Cubs’ third hit.

Wilson struck out Brian McRae as Bullett stole second and then also fanned Sandberg, running his career-high strikeout total to 10. Grace got the walk and then Sosa hit his seventh homer.

``I did everything right. I hung a slider. Game over,″ Wilson said.

``I’d been getting him out with it all day with the same pitch. I tried to get him to pull off of it, but I hung it and he pulled it out on the street. I pitched good, I didn’t pitch good enough.″

Green’s biggest regret, perhaps, was not going to the mound to talk with his young pitcher before Sosa came to the plate.

``I should have gone out there and told him how to pitch to Sosa. He dominated Sosa all day. It’s just a shame,″ Green said. ``It’s my fault, I should have talked to him.″

Jaime Navarro (2-3) gave up just seven hits and tied a career high with nine strikeouts. He walked two and was hurt by the Mets’ aggressive base running in the first and third innings.

Lance Johnson, who played with the White Sox last season and led the American League in hits, opened the game with a single and stole both second and third. He then hustled home when Scott Servais’ throw to second base on Bernard Gilkey’s steal was in the dirt and shortstop Jose Hernandez couldn’t handle it.

Grace’s single scoring Sandberg tied it in the bottom half.

But Johnson and Jose Vizcaino singled in third and pulled a double steal. The Mets then took the 2-1 lead on Gilkey’s RBI grounder.

Notes: Cubs third baseman Dave Magadan got more bad news on his injured left hand. An MRI revealed fluid from an unknown source in the hand. Magadan had the hand drained and received a cortisone injection. He has surgery to remove a bone spur March 11 and was activated from the disabled list one day before the hand began troubling him again. .... In addition to Johnson, the Mets’ starting lineup featured two other former Chicago players, ex-Cubs Vizcaino and Kevin Roberson. ... Johnson leads the majors with seven triples. He has 72 since 1991.

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