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Sosa finds consistency at plate

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 26, 2001


Paul Wilson leaned back on two legs of a padded folding chair, eyes set on WGN's broadcast of the Cubs game Friday afternoon.

"He's like a Jason Giambi. He's like a Bernie Williams. You can't set a pattern," the Rays pitcher said. "Every at-bat you have to throw something different, give him a different look."

Wilson was on the mound for the Mets on May 3, 1996, when Sammy Sosa hit a winning homer in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field.

"He hit the same pitch I struck him out on two times before then," Wilson said. "And he's a lot better hitter now than he was then."

The rest of the country is only now figuring that out after a monstrous August in which the Cubs rightfielder is hitting .404 with 14 homers, 30 RBI and 13 walks.

Sosa's increasing patience at the plate (93 walks) is paying huge in those same categories during what may turn out to be his finest season. He is hitting .319 with 49 homers, a league-leading 129 RBI and is on pace to walk more and strike out less than he ever has.

"You get more knowledgeable the older you get," White Sox designated hitter Jose Canseco said. "He's always been a very good hitter, but he's just developed consistency."

How's this for consistent?

Sosa needed one more homer to join Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire as the only players to hit 50 in four seasons.

He's had at least 36 homers and 100 RBI in seven straight seasons.

Earlier in August, Sosa became the fifth player to hit three homers during two games in the same month, joining Johnny Mize (July 1938), Willie Stargell (April 1971), Doug DeCinces (August 1982) and Carlos Delgado (April 2001).

The latter has nudged Sosa closer to Barry Bonds and Luis Gonzalez in this year's home run race, which he won with 50 last year.

"I don't really think about that," Sosa told the Associated Press. "Barry has a job to do and I have a job to do. I just won it last year, so that's good enough.

"I'm thinking about winning more games, not anyone else."

OCTOBER PREVIEW: If it were two months from now, the Seattle Mariners might feel differently about winning a series at Yankee Stadium.

But even though they beat the Yankees two out of three last weekend, it's still just August.

"In a way, we backed up our accomplishments for the season," said Mariners outfielder Mike Cameron, who went 7-for-8 with two homers and 10 RBI in the final two games of the series. "But the Yankees are going to be the nemesis in October.

"We've said it before and we didn't see anything in this series to change it: The road to the World Series goes through Yankee Stadium. We know that, and we're prepared for it."

MIXED EMOTIONS: After a shutout in his first start against his former team in May, Mike Hampton wasn't as fortunate in his return to Shea Stadium on Tuesday.

The former Crystal River pitcher allowed four runs in the first inning against the Mets but retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced in his seventh loss in 10 decisions.

"The hard part is you want something so much, maybe too much," Hampton said.

"There were a lot of emotions."

AT LEAST HE'S CONSISTENT: By sending Mike DiFelice to Triple-A Tucson on Thursday after the former Rays catcher was arrested on charges he assaulted two women and a parking attendant at a Pittsburgh nightclub early Tuesday, Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo continued a trend with troublesome players.

Colangelo traded Suns players Jason Kidd (domestic violence) and Cliff Robinson (DUI and marijuana possession) and released relief pitcher Bobby Chouinard (domestic violence) after their run-ins.

DiFelice was traded to Arizona along with Albie Lopez on July 25 and was hitting .048 in 21 at-bats since.

BY THE NUMBERS: Cleveland's Jim Thome, Roberto Alomar and Juan Gonzalez could become the first teammates to lead their league in homers, average and RBI since Ginger Beaumont, Tommy Leach and Honus Wagner did it for the 1902 Pirates. Thome has 43 homers (first), Alomar is hitting .345 (second) and Gonzalez has driven in 115 runs (first). ... Rockies rookie Jason Jennings became the first player to pitch a complete-game shutout and homer in his major-league debut. He tossed a five-hitter in Colorado's 10-0 win against the Mets on Thursday. ... Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano became the youngest starter in the majors this season when the 20-year-old pitched against the Brewers. He is 315 days younger than the previous youngest -- Milwaukee's Nick Neugebauer.

THE LAST WORD: "I didn't quit wheezing until 12:30. That's like running the full length of a football field, from the back of the end zone to the back of the other end zone." -- Outfielder Ken Griffey after he hit an inside-the-park home run to give Cincinnati a 5-4 win against the Cardinals on Monday.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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