Sosa hits HR #599 in Rangers win

CINCINNATI -- With one grand stroke, Sammy Sosa took another little hop toward history.

Sosa hit his 599th homer Friday night, a game-turning grand slam that sent the Texas Rangers to a 7-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds and left Slammin' Sammy looking for much more.

No. 600 -- and beyond.

"Everybody's thinking about 600," Sosa said. "I didn't come here to hit 600. Believe me, I want to get it done. I want to get it over with. But I'm not going to stop at 600.

"Definitely everybody's waiting for that; it's a big number. But my intention is not stopping there. I'm not going to be like I was in Chicago, but little by little, I'll be happy."

The 38-year-old slugger is one homer away from a mark that only four others have reached -- Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. He ended an 18-game homer drought with his first grand slam since Sept. 15, 2004.

He took his customary hop in the fifth inning after the ball left his bat and headed for right field, where Ken Griffey Jr. briefly gave chase before pulling up and watching Sosa's latest memorable moment in Cincinnati.

Sosa also hit his 500th -- again, to right field -- four games after Great American Ball Park opened in 2003.

"I have to say this city is my lucky charm," Sosa said. "Any time I have the opportunity to come to Cincinnati, I always play different here. Hopefully I'll come back tomorrow and do the same."

A year ago, it looked like he wouldn't get the chance. Sosa sat out last season before the Rangers, who gave him his start in baseball and then traded him away as a scrawny rookie, provided an opportunity to resume his chase.

His ninth career grand slam off Matt Belisle (5-5) was the most decisive of four homers in a game matching the AL's worst starting rotation and the NL's worst bullpen. Belisle left a cut fastball over the plate for Sosa, who hit it solidly.

"I knew if I kept it on the outer half, he wouldn't be able to get a lot of wood on it, but it was up in the zone," Belisle said. "He knows how to get it up and out. Those kinds of mistakes can beat you."

Ramon Vazquez also homered for the Rangers, and David Ross and Adam Dunn homered off Vicente Padilla (3-8), who got his first road win. Eric Gagne retired the side in the ninth and remained perfect in seven save chances this season.

The interleague game united two of baseball's most accomplished home run hitters -- Sosa and Griffey -- and two of its worst teams. The Rangers have the American League's worst record at 25-42, while the Reds are at the bottom of the National League at 26-42.

With little at stake in the standings, the focus was on whether the two chart-climbing sluggers could deliver. Each had a run-scoring single before Sosa turned the game with his first homer in 71 at-bats.

"He's been getting the tough RBIs all year," manager Ron Washington said of Sosa, who has 51 RBIs. "He may look bad at times, but as soon as you put runners out there, he finds a way to get them in."

Sosa's latest came against the team that has given up more of his homers than any other, in a ballpark where he had one of his greatest moments and one of his most uncomfortable.

His 500th homer gave Great American its first historic hit. After he served a seven-game suspension for using a corked bat later that season, Sosa returned at Great American and homered, though he was loudly and repeatedly booed by fans who once adored him.

He was booed again Friday in his first appearance at the ballpark in nearly three years. Sosa's homer was his 53rd against Cincinnati, his highest total against any team.

He had one shot at 600, but struck out against Todd Coffey in the eighth. He said the milestone wasn't in the back of his mind.

"When you play this game like me, with so many milestones, you don't think about it," Sosa said. "If it happens tomorrow, perfect. Sooner or later, it's going to happen."

While Sosa slumped, Griffey was on a tear lately, moving to 579 with four homers in his last seven starts. Griffey is eighth on the career list, four behind Mark McGwire.

At times, neither last-place team could get out of its own way.

Ross fielded Padilla's bunt in the fifth inning, only to get knocked down by charging third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Padilla came around to score on Frank Catalanotto's double, which was an adventure of its own -- the pitcher initially missed third base and had to stop to kick it before continuing home.

Padilla got the victory despite giving up 12 hits and five runs in five innings. Coming into the game, the right-hander was 0-5 in seven road starts with an 8.74 ERA that was the highest in the majors.

Notes

The Rangers activated LHP Ron Mahay off the 15-day DL, where he had spent a month with a strained muscle in his rib cage. RHP Scott Feldman was sent to Triple-A Oklahoma to open a roster spot. ... Vazquez's homer ended an 0-for-11 slump. It was his first RBI since his homer on May 25 off Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka. ... SS Michael Young doubled in his first at-bat, extending his hitting streak to eight games. ... In the first three innings this season, the Rangers have scored 96 runs and given up 166.


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