Final

Series: Game 1 of 3

Cincinnati leads 1-0 (as of 4/4)

Game 1: Friday, April 4
Chi Cubs9Final
Cincinnati10
Game 2: Saturday, April 5
Chi Cubs9Final
Cincinnati7
Game 3: Sunday, April 6
Chi Cubs4Final
Cincinnati5

Cubs 9

(2-2, 2-2 away)

Reds 10

(1-3, 1-3 home)

7:10 PM ET, April 4, 2003

Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio 

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CHC 000240120 9 13 0
CIN 01610011 - 10 11 0

W: S. Williamson (1-0)

L: D. Veres (0-1)

Reds pick up first win as Sosa hits 500th HR

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Sammy Sosa finally got No. 500. At long last, the Cincinnati Reds got No. 1.

Mark Grudzielanek

Mark Grudzielanek slides home safely under catcher Jason LaRue's glove.

It was tough to tell who was more relieved.

Sosa hit his 500th career homer in the seventh inning Friday night, but the Reds hit three homers of their own for their first victory in their new ballpark, 10-9 over the Chicago Cubs.

Then, they all took a deep breath.

"It's great because I don't have to think about it anymore," said Sosa, who became the 18th player to reach 500. "I don't have to go up there every at-bat thinking of hitting the ball out of the park."

And the Reds don't have to fret about how they can't seem to win in Great American Ball Park, where they lost two exhibitions to Cleveland and got swept by Pittsburgh in their opening three-game series.

They blew a 7-0 lead on Friday, leaving the crowd in a surly mood after Lenny Harris' two-run homer tied it in the eighth. Barry Larkin's RBI single off Dave Veres (0-1) in the bottom of the inning provided the winning run.

"That was tough," said Larkin, who had three hits. "There was a lot going on out there. Sammy got his 500th, and it didn't beat us. He got his 500th and we got our first win here, and I played a part in all of it, so that's huge."

Sosa provided the Reds with a housewarming gift -- the first historic homer in the new park.

His solo shot off reliever Scott Sullivan in the seventh landed in the right-field seats and touched off one of the loudest ovations in the park's short history.

Sosa made his trademark home run hop as soon as the ball left the bat, then put his head down and circled the bases to a standing ovation. He pointed both index fingers to the sky when he stepped on home, then came out for a curtain call as the 29,048 fans kept on cheering.

"When I made contact, I knew the ball was gone and I'm like, 'Wow, I got it,'" Sosa said. "When I went to the plate, I pointed to the sky to show my respect to God."

His wife, mother, brother and four close family friends accompanied him from New York, where he failed to hit one in three games against the Mets. They embraced as Sosa circled the bases.

The 34-year-old outfielder reached the mark with one of the greatest home run surges in history. He raced Mark McGwire to the single-season home run record in 1998, finishing second with 66 while Big Mac hit 70.

Sosa kept on going, hitting 63 homers the next year and 64 in 2001. He has 293 homers in the last six years, putting him among the game's elite sluggers.

The sudden and sustained burst made Sosa only the fifth player to reach 500 homers before his 35th birthday. Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays also were 34, and Jimmie Foxx was 32 years old.

"It was a special moment," Reds manager Bob Boone said. "It's too bad he couldn't have done it in Chicago against somebody else."

Like Aaron, Sosa also delivered one of his milestone homers in Cincinnati, the home of baseball's first professional team.

Aaron hit the first homer at Riverfront Stadium when it opened in 1970. He also hit the most historic homer in the stadium's history, tying Ruth at No. 714 in the season opener on April 4, 1974.

Exactly 29 years later, Sosa hit another record-book homer in a new ballpark that's quickly gotten a reputation as a hitter's haven. Eighteen homers have been hit in the first four games.

Hee Seop Choi also hit a three-run shot for the Cubs, and Adam Dunn, Aaron Boone and Austin Kearns homered for the Reds, who got ahead 7-0 and barely held on.

The Reds were feeling pressure to get the breakthrough win. Dunn got them relaxed with his solo homer in the second off Shawn Estes.

Wisps of white smoke drifted from the home run smokestacks in center, and "The Boys Are Back In Town" played over the sound system as he circled the bases.

Before long, the tension was back as well.

Boone's two-run homer touched off a six-run third inning that made it 7-0. Sosa's homer cut it to 8-7 in the seventh, but Kearns added a solo shot in the bottom of the inning.

The crowd booed and jeered when Harris hit a two-run homer off John Riedling that tied it at 9 in the eighth inning. Scott Williamson (1-0) struck out Sosa and Choi to end the rally, then stayed and pitched the ninth.

Game notes
The Cubs now have played in 103 major league parks since 1876. They'll also make their first visits to SkyDome, Camden Yards and Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan this season. ... Cubs reliever Juan Cruz struck out the first two batters he faced, setting a club record. He also fanned six Mets in the opener, giving him a streak of eight consecutive strikeouts. The previous record was seven. ... Sosa has homered in 38 ballparks off 303 pitchers.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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