Baseball: Sosa so happy to make play-off

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The Independent Online
SAMMY SOSA was unable to match Mark McGwire's all-time home run record but went one better than his St Louis rival in another way - by booking a play-off berth with his Chicago Cubs side.

The Dominican Republic star never got close to hitting the four homers he needed to equal McGwire's record of 70, but the Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 5-3 to reach the play-offs for the first time since 1989. "I feel great. It's been unbelievable," Sosa said. "It's something I'll never forget - a dream come true."

Sosa singled and scored two runs to help Chicago win Monday's special one-game showdown for the National League wild card and a date at the East Division champions, Atlanta, today to begin their best-of-five divisional play-off series.

Sosa put his 70-66 homer race defeat to McGwire in perspective, realising second best of all-time is still quite astonishing as both men shattered the previous record, 61 by Roger Maris.

"I've been saying all year that he's `The Man,' but Mark McGwire is going to go home ...and maybe go to the beach. And I'm going to play," said a delighted Sosa while being doused with champagne in the victorious Cubs locker-room.

The Cubs built a five-run lead and survived a tense ninth inning to beat the Giants. Forty-year-old Gary Gaetti hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and Matt Mieske delivered a two-run single in the sixth for the Cubs, who advanced to the post-season for the first time since 1989.

Sosa had maintained that getting the Cubs into the playoffs was more important to him than winning the home run race. "Today I forgot about the home runs. I just wanted to win and celebrate with all the people of Chicago," said Sosa, who scored Chicago's final run in the eighth innings on a wild pitch by the San Francisco Giants closer, Jose Mesa.