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Associated Press
Sammy Sosa ducks away from a brushback from Cincinnati pitcher Juan Guzman in the fifth inning.
CINCINNATI -- Maybe this is the best way for Sammy Sosa to get that elusive 60th homer.

Instead of swinging into history in front of a small crowd with torn emotions in Cincinnati, Sosa can do it at packed Wrigley Field this weekend in front of a crowd that will enjoy it nearly as much as he does.

Sosa doubled home two runs in the ninth inning -- missing that 60th homer by only a few feet -- as the Chicago Cubs rallied to beat the Reds, 7-6, Thursday night.

Then the Cubs headed home to Wrigley Field for a series against the Milwaukee Brewers and a chance to duplicate history. Sosa became the fourth player to reach 60 homers last year at Wrigley in a game against the Brewers.

In the same place against the same opponent, he'll try to become the first to reach 60 twice.

"Now I've got an opportunity to go home, and let's see what happens," said Sosa, who's been stuck at 59 for 30 plate appearances.

Just like a precious diamond needs the right setting, a baseball record should be set on just the right diamond. Cinergy Field wasn't it.

Three meager crowds showed up to see the Reds try to gain ground in the playoff race and Sosa make a little bit of history. They wanted both -- they cheered Sosa when he came to bat, cheered the Reds when they got him out.

It was the same thing that happened last year with Sosa and Mark McGwire during their home run chase, but some of the Reds' pitchers took exception. They wondered how their fans could cheer for an opponent in a pennant race setting.

"They have to understand that the situation is different," Sosa said. "I don't see any reason why anybody can complain about it. What Mark and I have been doing doesn't happen every year. Everything we do in this game is for the fans."

Reds reliever Danny Graves (8-7) was one of those who complained about the fans. The crowd of 23,176 was on its feet when Sosa came to bat in the ninth inning with two on, one out and Graves trying to hold a 5-4 lead.

Flashbulbs popped as Graves threw ball one. Then he left a sinker over the plate, and Sosa took one of those big swings and made a little hop when the ball left the bat.

It smacked the wall in right-center for a double that drove in two runs. Mark Grace followed with another double for a 7-5 lead.

The double moved Sosa into the NL lead for RBIs with 131 and pleased him just as much as if it had been No. 60 itself.

"That double was unbelievable," said Sosa, who was 0 for 4 until his last at-bat. "I was looking for that one. That means more than the home run."

It crushed the Reds. They got a run in the bottom of the ninth off Terry Adams (6-3) before Rick Aguilera got the final two outs for his first save since July 5.

With the rest of the NL playoff contenders idle, the Reds could have gained a half-game with a win. Instead, they slipped to 3 1/2 behind Houston in the NL Central and three behind the New York Mets for the wild card.

Rodriguez slams Devil Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez hit his third grand slam of the season in the eighth inning and the Seattle Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 5-3.

Rodriguez broke out of a 3-for-33 slump with his sixth career slam, a shot to center field off reliever Esteban Yan (3-4).

"We were thinking of resting him tonight or tomorrow in Seattle," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said of Rodriguez. "His family is here from Miami, so he played. I'm glad he did."

Rodriguez's 38th homer put Seattle ahead, 4-2, and gave him 103 RBIs. It's the third time he has topped 100 RBIs.

Freddy Garcia (15-8) allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings.

Jose Mesa tied the Mariners' single-season save record of 33, set by Mike Schooler in 1989, in getting the final six outs.

Giants refuse to fold tent

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants, who trail Arizona by seven games with 16 left to play, refuse to believe the race in the NL West is over.

The Giants won their fifth straight, defeating the Florida Marlins, 6-5, to sweep a three-game series, and moved a half-game closer to the idle Diamondbacks. San Francisco has won 22 of its last 29.

Marvin Benard homered and drove in two runs as the Giants sent Florida to its seventh loss in a row.

Royal milestone for Beltran

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For Carlos Beltran, the number 100 has a neat look.

Beltran hit a two-run homer to become the first AL rookie with 100 RBIs since Mark McGwire as the Kansas City Royals beat the Anaheim Angels, 7-1.

"Coming into this year, I was just thinking I wanted to have a good year," he said. "I never imagined I could get 100 RBIs. But when I got closer to it, it was something I wanted to get."

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