Reds knock off Cubs, 5-4

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 16, 1999

The Associated Press

Sosa remained stuck on 59 homers Wednesday night, going 2-for-4 as the Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4.

Thursday, September 16, 1999

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Sosa remained stuck on 59 homers Wednesday night, going 2-for-4 as the Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4. While Sosa was held to a pair of singles, Greg Vaughn homered to lead the Reds to their 11th win in 13 games.

The Reds gained a game in the NL Central race, moving to three behind Houston when the Astros lost. Cincinnati remained 2 1/2 games behind New York for the wild card.

The Reds gained some ground by making sure that Sosa didn’t hurt them. He’s hitting .302 against the Reds this season with three homers, but hasn’t brought them down.

”We’ve had good luck with Sammy,” Reds manager Jack McKeon said. ”We’ll give him a hit if he keeps it in the ballpark.”

He didn’t come close to hitting one out Wednesday, giving him a stretch of 23 at-bats and five games without a homer. All five have come against Houston and Cincinnati, teams that pitch him carefully because they can’t afford to lose.

Sosa isn’t concerned about becoming the first player to reach 60 twice. That seems like a sure thing.

”It’s only one,” he said. ”With the 17 games I have left, don’t tell me I’m not going to hit one. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll still be a happy guy, I’ll still smile and get ready for next year.”

Although 60 seems assured, Sosa concedes that his tough stretch against playoff contenders has probably pushed Mark McGwire’s record 70 out of reach – for this year, anyway.

”Pretty much,” he said. ”If I’d played another team out of the pennant race, I probably would have had a chance. But you never know. A lot can happen.”

The Reds hope the same thing applies to their playoff chase.

After keeping Sosa in the ballpark but losing 4-3 in the series opener, the Reds knew they couldn’t afford to lose consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 1-3.

Vaughn played the biggest role in making sure it didn’t happen. He had a runs-scoring single as part of a four-run first inning and hit a solo homer off Jon Lieber (8-10) that made it 5-2 in the fifth.

”In this game, you’ve got to remember you can’t win them all,” Vaughn said. ”You’re going to lose some. You’ve got to forget yesterday, whether it was good or bad.”

The homer was Vaughn’s 39th of the season, nine of them against the Cubs. He has 10 homers in his last 46 at-bats with 22 RBIs.

”Vaughn has killed us all year,” manager Jim Riggleman said. ”It seems that Vaughn and (Houston’s) Carl Everett have hurt us all year, and Vaughn did it again tonight.”

The Reds made sure Sosa didn’t return the favor. The crowd of 21,794 booed when manager Jack McKeon decided to have Denny Neagle (7-5) walk Sosa intentionally with first base open in the fifth, even though he represented the tying run.

”A lot of them are out here to see Sammy,” McKeon said. ”They want to see him get the record here. If we’re up seven or eight runs, I don’t care what he does.”

Sosa had a chance to tie it in the ninth with a homer off Danny Graves. Instead, Sosa singled up the middle to drive in a run and make it 5-4, but Graves got Glenallen Hill on a fly out to end it and get his 24th save.

”I’ll take a single any day,” Graves said. ”He can hit all the singles he wants.”

Notes: The Cubs have not won consecutive games since July 20-22. They’re 9-35 since Aug. 1. … The Cubs have been the second-best road draw in the majors this season, averaging 34,999. Cincinnati has been an exception – they’ve averaged 24,910 in five games this season. … Riggleman and coach Jeff Pentland were ejected by home plate umpire Brian Gorman for arguing a strike call in the second. … Reds RF Michael Tucker was scratched from the lineup because of the flu. 2B Pokey Reese was scratched because of recurring back pain. … Reliever Scott Williamson left the game in the seventh with a small cut on the middle finger of his pitching hand and angrily threw his glove against the dugout wall. … Vaughn has 103 RBIs, the most by a Red since Dave Parker had 116 in 1986.