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SOSA'S NEW LUMBER GETS CREDIT FOR NO. 49

Sammy Sosa doesn't appear weary from his home run race with Mark McGwire. But his bat? Well, that's a different story.

So Friday he decided to borrow one and wrap his fingers around a fresh piece of wood.

The result? His 49th homer.

"I was using a white bat before and probably that white bat was a little tired right now. So I had to change it," Sosa said after the Chicago Cubs rallied with two ninth-inning runs off Robb Nen to beat the San Francisco Giants, 6-5.

"I went to a black bat. I went to Glenallen Hill's bat to tell you the truth. So I used his bat and, hey, it came through," Sosa said.

Hill had hit a pinch-hit grand slam Thursday to pace a come-from-behind win over the Giants.

On Friday it was Jose Hernandez who delivered a game-winning single off Nen, the Cubs' third hit of the ninth off the Giants' relief specialist.

"I was just praying it would get on the line and with Mark Grace on third I knew we had a chance to win. I was just trying for a fly ball or a hit," Hernandez said.

Trailing, 5-4, in the bottom of the ninth, Sosa singled with one out off Nen (7-4) and Grace walked. Henry Rodriguez then lofted a broken-bat single to right to drive in Sosa and tie the game.

Hernandez singled down the right-field line over a drawn-in infield as Nen blew his fourth save in 35 opportunities.

Sosa moved within two of McGwire's major league home run lead. His 49 homers ties Andre Dawson for second most in club history, a mark Dawson set in 1987.

The club and National League record is 56 set by Hack Wilson in 1930.

Kerry Wood, without a victory in four starts since July 31, allowed five hits and three runs in six innings and gave up Kent's two-run homer in the sixth, his 21st of the season.

Wood walked three and struck out three, his lowest strikeout total since striking out two on April 24 against the Dodgers.

Cardinals 10-0, Mets 5-1

NEW YORK -- Mark McGwire did not get any closer to Roger Maris in this doubleheader.

After getting a pinch-hit, RBI double in a first-game win over New York, McGwire struck out three times and walked as St. Louis lost the second game.

McGwire, who homered twice Wednesday and two more times in Thursday's doubleheader to reach 51, has 34 games remaining to reach Maris' record of 61.

Thousands among the sellout crowd of 52,320 came out early to watch McGwire take batting practice, and he put on a show by homering on his first 11 swings.

He didn't start for just the ninth time in 128 games this season, but pinch-hit for the second time this year, driving in a run off Mel Rojas in the ninth.

Against Armando Reynoso (5-0) in the second game, he walked in the first inning, struck out swinging in the third and took called third strikes in the fifth and seventh. The walk was McGwire's major league-leading 134th, leaving him 36 short of the record Babe Ruth set in 1923.

Before the doubleheader, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pleaded for opposing pitchers not to walk him.

"He has to be challenged," La Russa said. "Pitchers have to go after him and try to get him out. If that happens, he has a shot."

Braves 5, Padres 4

ATLANTA -- John Smoltz (12-2) survived a shaky beginning for his seventh straight win and Atlanta maintained its exclusive hold on the top record in the National League with a victory over San Diego.

The Braves pushed their lead over the Padres back to two games in a race that could be significant in October. For the first time, the team with the best record is assured of home-field advantage throughout the league playoffs.

Kerry Ligtenberg pitched the ninth for his 21st save. Atlanta's new closer has not allowed an earned run in 19 games.

Dodgers 5, Marlins 1

MIAMI -- Chan Ho Park pitched eight innings and Raul Mondesi hit a three-run homer to help Los Angeles beat Florida.

Park (11-7), who came into the game with a 6.14 career ERA against Florida, allowed four hits and one run for his first victory since July 30.

Pirates 14, Reds 2

PITTSBURGH -- Jason Kendall and Al Martin each hit two-run homers as Pittsburgh had its biggest offensive game of the season to rout Cincinnati.

The Pirates posted a season-high for runs and had 17 hits in winning their fifth straight game. They have reached double figures in hits in seven of the last eight games and have hit 16 home runs in 11 games.

Phillies 1, Diamondbacks 0

PHILADELPHIA -- Mark Portugal recorded his 100th career victory as Philadelphia beat Arizona.

Portugal (8-3) pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing five singles and three walks. He struck out six and improved to 100-81 lifetime.

The 12-year veteran won for the first time at Veterans Stadium since he signed with the Phillies in 1997, a span of 10 starts. He missed most of last year because of elbow trouble.

Astros 5, Brewers 2

MILWAUKEE -- Richard Hidalgo hit a two-run homer and Jeff Bagwell scored three times, leading Houston over Milwaukee.

The NL Central-leading Astros won for the 15th time in 21 games. They took the season series against Milwaukee, 7-2.

Sean Bergman (11-6), who had two no-decisions and a loss in his last three starts, allowed seven hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Rockies 3, Expos 2

MONTREAL -- Vinny Castilla hit his 37th homer with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, lifting Colorado over Montreal.

Castilla homered off Ugueth Urbina (4-3) to send Montreal to its ninth loss in 11 games.

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