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Sosa quiet as Cubs beat Rangers

Sosa quiet as Cubs beat Rangers

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ARLINGTON - Slammin' Sammy swung hard against his old team. And missed.

Playing against the Chicago Cubs for the first time in his career, with cameras flashing on every pitch to the slugger, Sosa was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts Tuesday night in Texas' 5-4 loss. He remained one home run shy of becoming the fifth member of the 600-homer club.

"I don't worry about that. My main focus is me and the pitcher," Sosa said. "Today is over. I'll come back tomorrow ready to go again."

Sosa, whose only homer in the past 21 games was a grand slam Friday in Cincinnati, has two more chances against the Cubs to join Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays in the elite club. Slammin' Sammy has 11 homers in 61 games this season for Texas.

Derrek Lee, in the Cubs lineup after appealing his five-game suspension, was 2 for 5 with an RBI double in the sixth inning off Joaquin Benoit (2-2) that made it 5-4.

Sosa hit 545 homers with the Cubs from 1992-2004, when he was the 1998 NL MVP and a seven-time All-Star. Chicago was the only team that Sosa, in his 18th major league season, had never faced as an opponent.

And based on his hard swings, he was excited about the chance to face his old team.

"I'm an aggressive guy. I'm not a guy that's going to go out there and swing like a girl," Sosa said.

Sosa struck out swinging in the first inning, then took a called third strike in the third after a couple of hard swings. Sosa struck out swinging again in the fifth and flew out to left - well short of the wall - in the eighth inning, prompting many fans to head to the exits.

"I thought he was taking normal swings at pitches he thought he saw," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

The Cubs played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for the first time, and many in the announced crowd of 38,290 wore Chicago jerseys and cheered for the visitors - and Sosa.

"It was nice, a lot of people showed up," Sosa said. "I still have to go out there and concentrate."

Carlos Marmol (2-0) struck out the first four batters he faced and five of nine in three perfect innings. Ryan Dempster struck out the side in the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances, completing five hitless innings by the Cubs' bullpen.

"Our starter didn't pitch well, but our bullpen saved us," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

Ian Kinsler hit two homers and Brad Wilkerson also homered to account for all the Rangers runs - all off Cubs starter Sean Marshall.

Mike Fontenot, part of the February 2005 trade that sent Sosa to Baltimore, was 2 for 3 with a walk and scored twice for the Cubs - the second run after his leadoff single in the sixth and before Lee's double.

"It's cool to be involved in a game like this after getting traded for him. It's fun. But I'm just happy to be in the lineup," Fontenot said. "I didn't expect this many Cubs fans. It seemed like there were more of them than Ranger fans."

Lee appealed the five-game suspension he got because of a bench-clearing brawl Saturday at Wrigley Field after he was hit by a pitch thrown by San Diego's Chris Young, who has also appealed a five-game suspension.

Lee was hit in the forearm by a pitch from Young that appeared to be headed toward the first baseman's head. Lee walked to first, had words with the pitcher, then threw a punch. Young swung back and the benches emptied.

Felix Pie had a two-run triple in the third to put the Cubs up 2-1.

Alfonso Soriano, who played in Texas in 2004 and 2005, drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the fourth to make it 4-2. Mark DeRosa, who had a career season for the Rangers last year before signing a free-agent deal with the Cubs, had a sacrifice fly earlier in the inning.

Marshall left after Kinsler's two-run homer with no outs in the fifth tied the game at 4-4.

Kinsler's 12th homer of the season came in the first inning, and Wilkerson led off the third with his seventh. Kenny Lofton had a leadoff single in the fifth before Kinsler homered again. Sosa never came close.

"I don't think he's pressing," Kinsler said. "We're hoping the next pitch is the one he hits out."

Notes - The Rangers played the first of 20 games in 20 days before the All-Star break. ... The Philadelphia Phillies are the only National League team which hasn't played in Arlington. ... Marshall had allowed only three homers his first five starts.

Rangers GM Daniels gets extension: General manager Jon Daniels' immediate future with the Texas Rangers was settled Tuesday with a one-year contract extension.

Now Daniels has more time to figure out how to improve baseball's worst team.

Rangers owner Tom Hicks gave the 29-year-old Daniels an extension through the 2009 season despite a 26-43 start that left Texas with the worst record in the major leagues. While disappointed with the record, Hicks is confident in baseball's youngest GM.

"Jon's got some hard decisions to make as we go into the next month to the trading deadline on how we improve the team," Hicks said. "I wanted to make sure he felt properly empowered to make the changes he felt fit to make."

Daniels is only halfway through his second season since becoming the youngest GM in major league history when he replaced John Hart in October 2005. The Rangers went 80-82 last season, then fired Buck Showalter and replaced him with rookie manager Ron Washington.

Since taking over a team that last went to the playoffs in 1999 and has never won a postseason series, Daniels has put an emphasis on the organization's scouting and development, including broadening the organization's presence in Latin America. Last winter, Daniels conducted the Rangers' first organization-wide meeting of coaches, scouts and administrators in several years.

"What we tried to do was win and develop at the same time. ... It's the hardest thing to do in professional sports, try to execute two plans at once," Daniels said. "There are a lot of good things going on that I'm proud of that don't get as much publicity, and for good reason."

With the Rangers stuck in last place and the trading deadline six weeks away, Daniels faces plenty of big decisions with other teams already showing interest in Texas players.

Relievers Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka are signed only through this season, as is 40-year-old center fielder Kenny Lofton. Teams will also inquire about first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is eligible for salary arbitration after this season and can become a free agent after 2008.

"Barring a significant turnaround, we'll be in the position of listening to other club's interest in our guys. It's not the position I want to be in, but it's the position we're in," Daniels said. "What we're trying to do is evaluate what gives us the best opportunity to acquire the best talent going forward."

Hicks and Daniels have both said they would like to see Teixeira, a switch-hitting slugger who was the Rangers' fifth overall pick in 2001, remain with the team throughout his career.

"We recognize the reality of the system and how it works that it may or may not be possible for Tex to stay with our club long term," Hicks said. "If somebody makes an offer that could improve our team longer term, we have to make a decision whether to gamble. ... It's a situation Jon faces this season, this offseason and next year" until Teixeira's contract is done.

The extension for Daniels doesn't immediately affect Washington, whose two-year contract is through 2008 and includes an option for two more seasons. Hicks referred questions about the manager to Daniels.

Daniels said Washington, a coach for Oakland the past 11 seasons, is "an integral part" of the organization. Daniels said any discussions concerning Washington's contract "will probably be after the season."

Daniels' extension comes two weeks after the amateur draft in which the Rangers had six of the first 80 picks and selected a pair of standout high school pitchers in the first round.

"Our goal is to be one of the premier development organizations in the game. We got a ways to go, but we've made progress," Daniels said.

"It's all about confidence and credibility," Hicks said. "Jon has the ability and the skills and I think he's going to get better every year. ... One thing this organization needs is stability. There are a lot of things Jon started two years ago that are going to pay dividends."

This year, the Rangers have been hampered by a starting rotation that has a 6.80 ERA with top two pitchers Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla struggling.

Millwood (3-6, 7.62) struck out a season-high 10 Sunday in Cincinnati, but that was his first win in eight starts since April - a stretch that has included two stints on the disabled list. Padilla, given a new $33.75 million, three-year contract after winning 15 games last season in Texas, is 3-8 with a 6.57 ERA.


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