05/17/07 2:23 AM ET
Sosa's dominant win worth the wait(s)
Righty allows one hit over seven-plus for third straight victory
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
He waited half a decade to become a dedicated starter, with 118 relief appearances splotched across his first five seasons. Then, he waited again for his first start as a member of the Mets, his bloated Spring Training ERA ensuring that he wouldn't make the team out of the gate. And on Wednesday, it was a different sort of wait, with Sosa cooped up in the clubhouse for three hours and seven minutes, before the rain finally dissipated enough for a game.
After the first two waits, Sosa responded with fire. The third one only topped it.
Sosa pitched seven-plus innings of one-hit ball Wednesday, leading the Mets past the Cubs, 8-1. His display of efficiency ensured that the delay would last longer than the game itself, making bearable what could have been a long night -- and longer morning.
"He threw strike one after strike one after strike one," said catcher Paul Lo Duca. "He's been unbelievable."
Finally climbing the mound at 10:17 p.m. ET, Sosa instantly assumed dominance. The hard-throwing right-hander used plenty of power -- and the finesse of his quirky slider -- to carve through Chicago's lineup. Through seven innings he had allowed just one hit, scattering two walks and an error.
He walked a third leading off the eighth, and at 104 pitches, Sosa's night would end there. But the scant remaining crowd appreciated the effort, choreographing Sosa's exit with a standing ovation and a chant of his name.
"You want to finish it with a positive start," said Mets manager Willie Randolph. "I thought he was getting a little tired at the end. It's not just about the pitch count. I thought he was laboring a little bit."
A rarity, considering Sosa labored little all night. Not once did multiple Cubs reach base in an inning, and just twice did anyone reach second on his watch. Joe Smith relieved him in the eighth and allowed that lone run to score -- putting the only blemish on Sosa's line -- but it wasn't enough to spoil the moment.
Perhaps most impressive was the fact that his slider -- not his fastball, a power pitcher's delight -- was the pitch keeping Chicago off-balance.
"It's a weird slider," Lo Duca said. "He can tighten it up a little bit, he can make it go down, he can make it go sideways, too. Then, when he throws his fastball, it looks like it's 100 miles per hour."
The Mets offense, too, rebounded from Tuesday's scant performance, needing just four innings to equal its six hits of a night ago. The biggest of those -- a Damion Easley two-run homer in the fourth -- gave Sosa more than enough cushion to continue his dominance, while the smallest -- a Carlos Gomez bloop in the second -- gave the 21-year-old rookie his first Major League RBI.
Gomez quickly added his second RBI in the seventh, after David Wright and Lo Duca drove in runs ahead of him. Wright's RBI was also his second of the night, while every Mets position player recorded at least one hit. Carlos Delgado tacked on an RBI fielder's choice in the eighth to provide the final margin.
The only thing preventing Wednesday from being a completely positive day was some late news on Jose Reyes, whose left hamstring cramped up during an eighth-inning at-bat. Reyes singled, and Randolph -- who was cautious about the situation after the game, classifying his shortstop as day-to-day -- immediately lifted him for a pinch-runner.
But no sooner had the game ended than Reyes was lobbying for his manager to stick him atop the lineup Thursday afternoon.
"No doubt," Reyes said of his odds of playing. "It's not a big deal. I told Willie I don't want to come out of the game."
And assuming that injury remains benign, that means Wednesday will be remembered much more for Sosa's brilliance than anything else. It was the third straight quality start for Sosa after injuries carved a spot for him in the Mets rotation, and by far his best yet.
Sosa has now given up just nine hits in 20 innings -- though he remains wary of calling that a trend.
"It's only three starts," Sosa said through a translator. "I can't put my head down. I have to work every day and really hard."
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.