Cubs 8, Devil Rays 1
Cubs manager Dusty Baker wanted to make sure his team concentrated on performance instead of the hype, so he met with his players Thursday. Based on the way the team responded, the session was a success.
Sosa got the Cubs started with a first-inning RBI single and also reached on an error in a seven-run third as Chicago routed the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 8-1.
“It was a great meeting. I feel very happy about it,” Sosa said.
“Dusty thought it was slipping away because things have been happening so much with the Sammy incident. It can affect you if you let it bother you,” said Chicago’s Lenny Harris, who got his 1,000th hit.
“It’s been an emotional week, especially for Sammy. We’re behind him all the way. He’s going to keep his head up.”
The Cubs now face the Yankees in a three-game series, the teams’ first meeting since the 1938 World Series. Clemens will face Kerry Wood on Saturday.
Sosa went 1-for-4 Thursday while waiting word from the commissioner’s office on his punishment. Bob Watson, who’s in charge of discipline, wrapped up his Wrigley Field investigation before heading back to New York.
An announcement on Sosa’s possible suspension could come as early as Friday, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said.
Sosa’s corked bat was discovered when it shattered in the first inning Tuesday night after he hit a ground ball.
Sosa, No. 17 on the career homer list with 505, claims he mistakenly used a batting practice bat in the game, a contention that has been met with great skepticism across the country. Seventy-six other bats in Sosa’s locker and five at the Hall of Fame were tested and found to have no foreign substance.
Sosa, in a batting tailspin since coming off the disabled list Friday, is now 4-for-24 in his last six games. He hasn’t homered since May 1.
“It’s probably going to take a couple more games before I feel comfortable at the plate,” Sosa said.
Just as they did Wednesday night, fans cheered Sosa as he raced to his position in right field to start the game and again in each at-bat.
Matt Clement (3-6), who had lost his previous five decisions, got his first win since April 18, losing a shutout bid when Aubrey Huff hit a run-scoring double in the sixth. He allowed seven hits in seven innings with two walks and a strikeout.
For once the Cubs’ offense didn’t desert Clement. In his previous 10 starts, Chicago had managed just 33 runs, 23 while Clement was in the game.
Five of the Cubs’ seven runs in the third off Dewon Brazleton (1-5) were unearned, thanks to three Devil Ray errors—two on former Cub Jason Smith at third base one day after he was called up from the minors.
“We’ve had a problem with that, where we make a mistake and things escalate,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said.
“Brazleton made some bad pitches. Then he lost his composure a little bit.”
Patterson scored when Smith—acquired by Tampa Bay in 2001 when Fred McGriff was traded to Chicago—fielded Sosa’s grounder and threw high over first. Ramon Martinez added an RBI double, another run scored when Tampa Bay left fielder Jason Tyner fumbled the ball and Clement drove in the seventh run with a single in his second at-bat of the inning.
Sosa singled up the middle in the first to score Patterson, who haddoubled.
Harris batted lead off for the first time since April, 2001 when he played for the Mets. … Smith was a 1996 draft choice of the Cubs in the 23thround. He was called up Wednesday when the Devil Rays released Damion Easley.