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Wood strikes out nine; Sosa homers

CHICAGO (AP) -- When Kerry Wood is pitching like this, opposing
hitters don't have much of a chance.

Wood struck out nine and allowed just four singles in seven
innings Saturday, beating the New York Mets 3-0 and giving the
Chicago Cubs their fifth straight win.

Sammy Sosa backed Wood with a homer and finished 2-for-4 with
two runs scored.

"I'm very impressed with Kerry," Sosa said. "He's so relaxed
out there, he knows what he's doing."

Wood (3-1) has given up just four earned runs in his last three
starts, a 1.60 ERA. He walked two and hit one in his first
scoreless outing of the season, and allowed only three runners in
scoring position -- one after the second inning.

He recorded nine straight outs at one point, starting the run by
picking off Kazuo Matsui when he tried to steal second with no outs
in the sixth inning.

"We couldn't muster anything offensively," Mets manager Art
Howe said. "He made great pitches when he had to. Right now,
things aren't breaking our way, but you keep grinding and things
turn."

The Mets, resembling a team from the dead-ball era, have lost
seven of nine and have scored only 12 runs in their last eight
games. Tyler Yates (1-2) gave up three runs and seven hits in five
innings, walking only one while striking out three.

"It's tough to continue to struggle to score runs," said Mike
Cameron, who was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. "No matter how much
you talk about it, you've got to find a way to get it done."

That's not easy against Wood, though. Wood still has the
sizzling fastball that helped him strike out an NL-record 20 in his
fifth career start and invited comparisons with fellow Texan Roger
Clemens. But he's learned how to throw more than heat now, and is
becoming a more dangerous pitcher with every season.

"As good as he's been, I don't think he's gotten to his best
yet," catcher Michael Barrett said. "It's going to be scary when
he gets there, because the way he's been pitching lately, he's been
making some pretty good hitters look bad."

On Saturday, it was Wood's sinker that befuddled the Mets. The
ball would dive in the dirt and wind up a couple of feet away, and
hitters still swung at it. When the Mets had runners at first and
third with only one out in the sixth -- the closest they came to
threatening -- Wood used the sinker to strike out Shane Spencer and
Karim Garcia.

"I just stayed with Michael back there and went after guys,"
Wood said. "The defense played great, we scored some runs early
and kept everything under control."

LaTroy Hawkins sealed the victory, getting the last four outs
for his first save of the year. Closer Joe Borowski got up briefly
to warm up, but Cubs manager Dusty Baker decided to let Hawkins
finish because all three batters in the ninth -- Spencer, Garcia and
Mike Cameron -- are former AL hitters.

"I just went with the matchups," Baker said. "It's no big
deal. Don't read anything into it. Joe's my closer."

Sosa gave Wood an early lead, homering off Yates on a 2-2 pitch.
Though the wind was blowing in at 15 mph, Sosa knew the ball was
gone almost as soon as it left his bat, doing his trademark home
run hop.

"When he first hit it, I didn't think he got it," Yates said.
"Then when I saw it land, I thought, `Oh my God he hit it that
well.' I'd hate to see it if the wind was blowing out."

The Cubs added a run in the second, and Yates was lucky they
didn't get more. With two outs, Yates gave up an RBI single to
Ramon Martinez, a single to Wood and then walked Todd Walker to
load the bases.

But Yates escaped the jam when Corey Patterson grounded into a
double play. The Cubs added another run in the third when Sosa
hustled from second to home to beat Spencer's throw from left.

"We're hitting on all cylinders now," Wood said. "We're just
going out and having fun. It's easy to relax when you're putting
runs on the board and you're playing great defense."

Game notes
Wood is 5-1 in eight career starts against the Mets. ...
The Cubs have outscored their opponents 35-4 during their winning
streak. ... Cubs SS Alex Gonzalez was out of the lineup again with
a sore right leg. ... Cubs 2B Todd Walker was called out on
interference in the fourth inning. ... Mets 3B Ty Wigginton was
released from a New York hospital Saturday after being treated for
an ulcer.