10/08/2003 2:46 AM ET
Start of something big for Sosa?
Sammy Sosa's first postseason homer is a big one: 56K | 300K
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Two feet here, two feet there, this topic would be a non-starter. Fair or unfair, it's true. If Sammy Sosa's deep fly ball in Game 4 of the NL Division Series is lofted just a little higher, Sosa is the series hero before a delirious clinch-happy throng at Wrigley. "Slammin' Sammy" had a few balls that were thisclose to being base hits in the Division Series; if they fall, the whole question of him "breaking out" is a non-question.
And if a frog had wings, it wouldn't bump its behind when it tried to fly.
Sosa was 3-for-20 in this postseason before launching a game-tying, euphoria-inducing two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning on Tuesday night. He sent an already crazy, already thrilling 8-6 game into extra innings, tied at 8-8, before Mike Lowell gave the Marlins a win at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are trailing, but maybe Sammy's coming around. And if Sosa is coming around, the Cubs are a much, much more dangerous team.
Sosa, as you might expect, never saw it in quite those terms. He didn't feel he needed to "come around." He just needed some balls to fall. His career postseason numbers could use a little buffing and shining -- 5-for-31 with no homers before the ninth on Tuesday -- but they were far from disastrous.
The slugger took exception to a question after the game, when a reporter wondered whether the home run took a weight off his shoulders.
"I've been hitting the ball very good," he said. "In the series with Atlanta, I was hitting the ball very well. They haven't been dropping -- they've been hit right to somebody. I've been getting a lot of good wood, very very hard. People don't realize that. They only see the things that they want to see. But I've been swinging the bat really good. I've been on top of everything, on top of my game."
The best example of that came just one at-bat earlier, in the seventh inning. With a runner on third base and two outs, Sosa scorched a one-hop laser beam up the middle, but Alex Gonzalez made a spectacular, full-extension play to scoop it up and throw him out. When you're hot, that ball goes through for a crucial RBI.
When you're not, Alex Gonzalez catches it. And you start thinking, here we go again.
"No question about it," Sosa said. "But you can't feel sorry for yourself. You've got to just keep continuing. Don't give up and keep continuing. It happened to me. It can happen to anybody.
"The one that I hit to shortstop, I put a good swing on that one. But the shortstop made an unbelievable play. What can you do?"
You can go up there two innings later. Sosa had never enjoyed success against Ugueth Urbina, going 1-for-11 against the Florida closer lifetime. But with his team down to its absolute last chance, he came through. Oh did he come through.
"I know that they have a big plan how to pitch me, but I stayed calm and patient and waited for the mistake," he said. "That was one of his mistakes right there. But that was great to come back like that and help out the ballclub, and make sure that if we were gonna die, we were gonna die fighting."
And the Cubs might have even a little more fight in them now. His big blast pumped up his mates, who knew it was just a matter of time before the former NL MVP came through.
"You look at the other side of that and ask why (he hasn't been coming through)," said Mike Remlinger. "There's been some great pitching going on. I don't think you can start knocking people because they're not getting their hits. There have been a lot of balls hit hard that have been caught and there have been a lot of quality pitches made."
Still, Sosa is supposed to hit those, at least some of the time. And until Tuesday, he hadn't. He had a grand total of one RBI in the Division Series. Frankly, it's remarkable that the Cubs advanced past the hard-hitting Braves without getting more from Sosa.
Maybe they'll get it this round.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.