SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)—The scorecard said Montreal was the home team against the Chicago Cubs.
The cheers in the stands proved otherwise.
Moises Alou hit a tiebreaking two-run single in the seventh inning, and the Cubs overcame a scary moment when Sammy Sosa was hit in the helmet with a pitch in a 4-3 victory over the Expos on Tuesday night.
Every Chicago run was cheered loudly by the crowd. There were Sosa and Cub jerseys everywhere. And when Sosa was hit by Zach Day in the fourth, a collective gasp was followed by a resounding boo from the crowd of 15,632 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
“It doesn’t really surprise me,” Alou said. “A lot of people from the Dominican Republic were telling me they were going to come down to see this series.”
The Cubs won their sixth in a row and remained in a tie with Houston for the NL Central lead.
Alou, who is from the neighboring Dominican Republic, said the team was distracted and nervous going into their first ever game in San Juan, where the Expos play 22 “home” games this year.
Manager Dusty Baker, who played with the Santurce Crabbers of the Puerto Rican Winter League in 1971, said he expected a warm reception and a fun atmosphere at the game.
“This is Puerto Rico. You’re going to have lots of music, lots of noise, lots of excitement,” Baker said.
“The stadium is a little different. It’s nice, I feel like I haven’t been away that long,” he said.
After Sosa was hit, the All-Star right fielder took a knee and was immediately approached by Baker and the team’s trainer. After a few minutes, Sosa walked to first, and appeared to be fine. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez.
In April, Sosa was hit in the helmet by a pitch thrown by Pittsburgh’s Salomon Torres. That time, the ball’s impact was so severe it ripped a large hole in front of his left ear flap.
“This wasn’t nearly as serious as the last one,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s still kind of frightening. You have flashbacks to what happened last time.”
The Expos were playing the fourth of a six-game “homestand” in Puerto Rico—the team’s third this season away from Montreal.
Montreal has lost three in a row and nine of 10 games and fallen back in the race for the NL wild card.
“We’ve got a schedule to finish, and we’ve got to do it the best we can,” manager Frank Robinson said.
“I had good placement on my hits,” Alou said.
Zambrano (13-9) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings, and struck out five. Joe Borowski gave up a pinch-hit homer to Jose Macias in the ninth before finishing for his 26th save in 30 chances.
“The first two innings I was too excited. I had to calm down and say to myself ‘this is like any other game in the States,”’ Zambrano said.
Baker said they were hoping to get seven innings out of their starter.
“Big Z threw very well. He’s pitched well for a long time now,” Baker added.
Chicago loaded the bases with one out in the sixth but only got one run. Sosa, Alou and Ramirez hit consecutive singles and Randall Simon followed with a single that scored Sosa and made it 2-1.
Wilkerson had another double in the sixth and scored on Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to tie it at 2-2.
The Cubs arrived in San Juan having swept their three-game series against the Brewers in Milwaukee. … San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium was named after a former Cubs pitcher (1942-1943 and 1946) who was the first Puerto Rican to play in the major leagues. During Tuesday’s pregame introductions, his No. 24 was put on the right-field wall alongside the numbers of Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda. … Expos 1B Wil Cordero was not with theclub and won’t be with the team Wednesday because of personal reasons.