The late Harry Caray knew Sammy Sosa was going places.
"Thammy Thothas gonna be a thuperthtar," said Caray between sips of a big Budweiser.
That was back when the former Dominican shoeshine boy had been let go by George W. Bush and the Texas Rangers. Saying that playing for Chicago has been good for Sosa is like saying that the "Titanic" song worked out pretty well for Celine Dione.
On Sunday before 41,059 sun-drenched fans at Pacific Bell Park, Sosa unloaded an opposite field home run off Livan Hernandez to propel the Cubs to an 11-2 victory over the Giants.
"I hit it real good," said Sosa. "The difference in the team this year is pitching. We came out of Spring Training ready to go. Right now, everybodys doing their job."
Barry Bonds continued his power surge with the five hundred fifth homer of his career, placing him ahead of Eddie Murray and into sole possession of sixteenth place on the all-time list.
In the sixth, Bonds lost Matt Stairs pop in a high sun. A ground ball advanced Stairs to third, and he scored on a short fly to Armando Rios in right. Rios throw could have gotten the slow-moving Stairs, but it hit the dirt unevenly and skipped past Bobby Estalella.
Manny Aybar started for Chicago, leaving for a pinch-hitter with a 6-1 lead after five. Former Texas schoolboy sensation and one-time hope of the Oakland As, Todd Van Poppel, entered the game. Marvin Benard, who is in the middle of a terrible hitting slump, struck out. Rich Aurilia hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Bill Mueller, who made a terrific grab and a not-so-terrific toss to first. The ball got by Stairs, but Aurilia had to hold up.
Bonds, with the weight of a team that is not hitting on his shoulders, tried to hit a five-run homer, and instead went down swinging. Jeff Kents frozen rope to center moved Aurilia to second. Van Poppel, showing the kind of non-command that earned him a ticket out of Oakland, walked J.T. Snow. Watching him work reminds one of ex-Phillie Mitch "Wild Man" Williams, but Russ Davis let him off the hook with a pop that Sosa flagged down despite the high sky, leaving the bases filled.
"I have no regrets," Van Poppel said of his decision to sign out of high school in 1990 instead of attend Texas. "Ive met interesting people and been places I wouldnt have been."
"We gotta just work through this," said Dusty Baker regarding the performance of Benard. "We have the guys we have, and we have to believe in them if they are to believe in themselves."
Bonds made a nice defensive play on Eric Youngs searing, sinking liner to start the seventh. Mueller singled up the middle, but reliever Tim Worrell, one of Dusty Bakers most pleasant surprises, struck out Sosa looking and induced Todd Hundley to fly to Marvin Benard, who battled the sun to make the catch and end the inning.
In the seventh, Estalella homered to left, but alas the bases were emptier than a porn stars heart. 6-2. Benards only hope to get to first base these days came on his pop to short, which was barely nabbed, as it was lost in the sign by Augie Ojeda.
Damon Buford, who used to work around the Candlestick Park clubhouse when his father, Don was a Giants coach in the 1980s, belted a solo homer for the Cubs off Chad Zerbe in the eighth.
"I got a fastball," said Buford, who has not been playing regularly. "This really felt good for my confidence."
Kyle Farnsworth, a big right-hander who is making the transition from "potential" to power pitcher, came on in the eighth for Chicago. Bonds, still trying to do too much, hit a 390-foot fly out to center with a man on. The struggling Jeff Kent (.235 coming in) got around on Farnsworth with a line-hugging single to left. Farnsworth got the next two men with hard stuff and a good hook.
"Ive been swinging the bat well for a couple of days," said Kent, "but hits are overrated. It was just a bad day. Aybars just another pitcher. Anybody on their staff probably couldve stopped us today."
Alan Embree who was touched for four earned runs, giving the Windy City nine an 11-2 lead. Benard, whose defense is not much better than his hitting right now, errored on Matt Stairs routine grounder to let in the extra run that sent Embree to the showers. Aaron Fultz got the last out.
Southpaw Jeff Fassero ended the game with the help of his defense. Do not look now, folks, but Chicago looks like a contender.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism