Sosa, Palmeiro push O's past Rox

Sosa, Palmeiro push O's past Rox

BALTIMORE -- As he flicked his powerful wrists and sent the ball sailing, Sammy Sosa made his customary hop he performs when he feels the ball is long enough for a home run. Most of Sosa's balls land well beyond the fence, seemingly relieved to land in an excited fan's hands for a souvenir.

This one, potentially No. 583, was a little more stubborn. The ball jumped off Sosa's bat like a powerful shotgun blast, but as it glided through the humid Baltimore air, it began to lose steam. Does Sosa, at age 36, still have enough strength to swat a ball to the opposite field for a home run? The ball answered, "Yes," as it cleared the right-field scoreboard, as Sosa's career home run No. 583 had arrived.

Sosa tied his contemporary and home run peer Mark McGwire for sixth on the all-time list as the Orioles cruised to a 7-2 win over the Colorado Rockies in front of 43,067 at Camden Yards.

It was Sosa's ninth home run of the season and fifth in the past 24 games. Sosa and McGwire will be forever linked in baseball history because of their epic chase for Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998. McGwire and Sosa dug the sport out of its depression after the 1994 strike with their amazing competition that had fans tuned into televisions or signing onto the Internet for daily updates.

Finally, McGwire broke the record with No. 62 on Sept. 8, 1998, against Sosa and the Chicago Cubs. After McGwire rounded the bases and was mobbed by teammates, he hugged Sosa and the two did Sosa's customary chest tap and point to the sky.

It's one of baseball's immortalized moments. But that was seven years ago. McGwire has since retired and has remained secluded and Sosa is trying to help his new team win a pennant.

"That was a privilege for me to be there with him," Sosa said of the chase. "To have a chance to tie him today was very nice. But right now is no time to celebrate. We're on a mission. We're going to continue fighting every day."

After talking about the team for a few more moments, Sosa took time to recognize the significance of the accomplishment. Like Mays and Aaron or DiMaggio and Williams, Sosa and McGwire will forever be connected in baseball lore.

"I am still playing, my career is not going to stop here. It's nice, and to have a chance to tie Mr. McGwire is incredible," he said. "But I am going to keep going. I have some more (home runs) left in me."

Sosa's home run off Byung-Hyun Kim followed a solo shot by Miguel Tejada that opened the scoring. The Orioles poured on the runs with six off Kim, including RBI singles by B.J. Surhoff and Sal Fasano, and a two-run single by Brian Roberts.

Sammy ties Big Mac
Rockies at Orioles, June 18
Sammy Sosa belted his ninth home run of the season and 583rd in his career, tying Mark McGwire for sixth on the all-time HR list:
RankPlayerHome Runs
1.Hank Aaron755
2.Babe Ruth714
3.Barry Bonds703
4.Willie Mays660
5.Frank Robinson586
6.Sammy Sosa583
6.Mark McGwire583
8.Harmon Killebrew573
9.Reggie Jackson563
10.Rafael Palmeiro559
Bold indicates active players.

After Friday's frustrating 2-1 loss, which reduced their lead in the American League East to two games, the Orioles sorely needed the offense to make matters easier.

"We seemed to get everything together in that inning today," Tejada said. "We have been struggling a little bit scoring runs. We need to keep up the way we're hitting because the pitchers are pitching well."

Sidney Ponson was coming off a frustrating outing in Cincinnati in which he blew leads of 3-0 and 4-3 and was touched for seven earned runs in six innings. This time, he had his sinker working and his good control. He needed that because the Rockies had hits in six of his seven innings, but didn't cash in until Eddy Garabito's two-run homer in the seventh.

Ponson's biggest jam was in the fifth, just after the Orioles scored six runs. He allowed singles to Ryan Shealy, Luis Gonzalez and finally Garabito with two outs. Garrett Atkins followed with a screaming liner to right field, but Sosa was able to run it down to end the threat.

In the sixth, he stranded Todd Helton, who led off the frame with a double. Ponson was not at his best, but he did what the organization wants to see more of -- churn out positive innings when he's not sharp.

"From the get-go, I had my sinker going and I made the pitches when I needed [to]," he said. "I allowed hits in every single inning after the first, so I worked out of the stretch a lot today. But it's about the win; that's all I care about. We always have trouble with teams under .500, but today we found a way to bounce back."

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli was short with the media after the game because he made the difficult move of optioning outfielder David Newhan to Triple-A Ottawa to make room for Luis Matos, who was activated from the disabled list.

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.