Cubs crash to Tokyo

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The Independent Online

Tokyo Yomiuri 6, Cubs 0

Sammy Sosa hit the monster home run that everyone hoped he would. Problem was, not everyone was there to see it Monday.

Sosa launched a drive over the scoreboard high above center field, only it came in batting practice before many fans had filed in. Then he went 0-for-4 as the Chicago Cubs lost to the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants 6-0.

"Good pitching going to stop good hitters," Sosa said after the game. "I've got to give them credit for that."

Fans who'd arrived early and the snack vendors were the only ones who got what most people came for: a chance to see Sosa smack one ball after another into the stands. Several of the Giants emerged from the dugout and stood watching Sosa's show in awe.

"Wow, look at that," said Junko Sakai, who like many people admitted that she'd come to the game just to see Sosa. "He's huge. His body, his aura - it's totally different from a Japanese player."

The atmosphere inside the Tokyo Dome was festive for the exhibition game, with young women in fluorescent yellow jackets weaving their way through the stands to fill up fans' beer mugs.

Sosa came up empty at the plate, however. He struck out swinging in the first inning, tapped back to the pitcher in his next two at-bats and flied out to the warning track in the eighth.

After Sosa's final at-bat, many fans left the ballpark.

Hideki Matsui, the Giants' top power hitter, homered in the second inning against Andrew Lorraine. Yoshinobu Takahashi later connected for Tokyo Yomiuri.

Cubs manager Don Baylor refused to over-analyze the loss, calling it only a "building block" for the new season.

"You don't assess a shutout. There's nothing to assess," he said. "We didn't play well."

Sosa was gracious in conceding defeat to the Giants.

"The pitching was everything. They've got good pitching," he said. "All of them were impressive."

The Cubs play the Seibu Lions on Tuesday, then take on the New York Mets in a two-game series starting Wednesday night at the Tokyo Dome that opens the major league season.

Earlier in the day, the Mets beat the Lions 8-1 in an exhibition at the Seibu Dome.