Maybe a little time off was all that Sammy Sosa needed to get back his swing.
Playing in his first game following a seven-game suspension for hitting with a corked bat, Sosa hit his first home run since May 1 on Wednesday to end a string of 69 at-bats between homers.
Sosa and the Cubs will finish a four-game set with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
The Cubs slugger did his famous hop in the fifth after hitting a shot estimated at 464 feet. He singled in his first plate apperance of the Cubs’ 4-1 victory, ironically shattering his bat.
“He can erase a lot of stuff with his performance,” manager Dusty Baker said. “His performance is what shot him to that pinnacle in the first place.”
Chicago went 3-4 without Sosa, who was starting to regain his stroke when he was suspended. He missed 17 games in May after having an infected toenail removed from his right big toe, which was interfering with his swing.
Sosa’s homer backed a very strong outing by Kerry Wood, who retired the first 17 batters he faced.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best baseball yet, but we’re still at the top,” Wood said. “Hopefully we’ll put together some wins in a row.”
Cincinnati would like to string a few wins together after dropping three of its last four games.
STANDINGS: Cubs - 1st place, NL Central. Reds - 4th place, 4 GB, NL Central.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Mark Prior (8-2, 2.71 ERA). Prior, who has won his last three decisions, had a tough outing the first time he faced Cincinnati this season. The right-hander allowed five runs - three earned - in an 11-3 loss on April 14. Chicago has won the 22-year-old Prior’s last four starts, including Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Toronto when he gave up two runs in 5 2-3 innings.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Paul Wilson (4-4, 4.48 ERA). Wilson has won his last two starts and has allowed just two runs in each of his last three outings. The right-hander did not earn a decision when the Reds beat the Cubs on April 6. He allowed four runs—one earned—and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings. He is winless in four career starts against Chicago.
SEASON SERIES: Cubs, 6-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - 1B Hee Seop Choi took batting practice with the rest of the Cubs on Wednesday. He rejoined the team on Tuesday, 10 days after a collision with Wood left him unconscious at Wrigley Field. He’s eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday. … OF Sosa is 1-for-3 with a homer in his career against Wilson. … Sosa returning helped the Reds at the box office as 7,835 tickets were sold when the windows opened, their biggest walkup sale of the season for only their eighth sellout. Reds - OF Ken Griffey Jr. was out of the Reds lineup for a second consecutive game with weakness in his right leg and hip. Manager Bob Boone says he’s just being cautious and may not play Griffey in the final game of the series Thursday. … C Jason LaRue is 3-for-5 with three doubles in his career against Prior. … RHP Danny Graves originally was scheduled to start Thursday but has been pushed back to Friday. With Wilson rested after only throwing two innings on Sunday at Philadelphia in a game that was rained out and Graves bothered by a blister recently, Cincinnati manager Bob Boone decided to flip their assignments. “It’s good for both of us,” Graves said.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 21-16 on the road; Reds - 20-19 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - 1B 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. Reds - INF Ryan Freel (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP John Riedling (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (elbow), 60-day DL.