As their star outfielder continues to serve his suspension for using a corked bat, the Cubs will try to complete a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Sosa, who was caught using a corked bat against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on June 3, began serving a seven-game suspension on Wednesday. His original eight-game suspension was reduced by a game after he made an appeal to major league baseball officials on Tuesday.
Sosa contended that he mistakenly used a bat that he usually reserves for batting practice.
“I am convinced of the sincerity of Sosa’s explanation and his contrition,” said Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer. “In my opinion, his candor and the promptness of his apology on the night of June 3 were exemplary.”
Sosa will still be permitted to travel and work out with his teammates. As he serves his suspension, however, the Cubs are determined not to slip from first place in the NL Central.
“You deal with people being in and out of the lineup all year, whether it be injuries or whatever,” Chicago reliever Mike Remlinger said. “It’s just a simple matter of going out there and trying to maintain a high level of play.”
Alou had two hits, including the 1,500th of his career, and drove in two runs as the Cubs moved nine games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2001 season.
The Cubs also improved to 11-7 without Sosa in the lineup. He missed 17 games earlier this season following surgery to remove his right big toenail.
STANDINGS: Cubs - 1st place (tied), NL Central. Orioles - 4th place, 7 GB, AL East.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Carlos Zambrano (5-5, 3.05 ERA). Zambrano had one of his worst starts of the season on Friday. Over six innings in a 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees, the 22-year-old right-hander gave up five runs and nine hits while striking out five and walking three. It marked the fifth time in 12 starts he didn’t last past the sixth. Zambrano will be making his first-ever start against the Orioles.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Rick Helling (3-4, 6.13 ERA). Helling has struggled in recent outings, giving up at least four earned runs in three of his last four starts. On Friday, he allowed five runs and seven hits over four innings in an 8-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. The 32-year-old right-hander has no record and a 1.96 ERA in four career games against the Cubs.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cubs - Corey Patterson, .322 avg., 12 HRs, 47 RBIs, 40 runs and 11 SBs. Orioles - Melvin Mora, .370 avg. and 42 runs; Batista, 10 HRs; Jeff Conine, 44 RBIs; Jerry Hairston Jr., 14 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Cubs - 6-2; Orioles - 1-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - 1B Eric Karros is 1-for-14 (.071) in his career against RHP Helling, but the one hit was a home run. … LF David Kelton is 4-for-9 in his first two major league games. He was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to replace 1B Hee Seop Choi, who went on the disabled list with a concussion. … Chicago starters have a 1.99 ERA in the team’s wins and a 6.27 ERA in its losses. Orioles - OF Melvin Mora went 3-for-5 on Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 22 games. He’s batting .472 (42-for-89) during the streak. … CF Luis Matos went 0-for-3 on Wednesday, ending his 15-game hitting streak. … The Orioles have reached double figures in hits in 17 of their last 21 games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 18-12 on the road; Orioles - 14-16 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - INF Choi (concussion), 15-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL. Orioles - INF Hairston (leg), 15-day DL; OF Larry Bigbie (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Lopez (oblique), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL.