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It'll be Chicago vs. San Francisco at Wrigley

Associated Press Published: September 28, 1998 12:00 AM

It'll be Chicago vs. San Francisco at Wrigley Field tonight in a one-game playoff for the NL wild-card spot.

Bernie Williams won the AL batting title over Mo Vaughn, barely. Toronto's Roy Halladay, in just his second major league game, came within one out of a no-hitter. The New York Yankees finished with an AL record 114 victories. Greg Vaughn hit his 50th home run.

What a day!

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And there was even more as the regular season wrapped up. Then again, anything that happens in the Giants-Cubs game _ including any home runs Sammy Sosa adds to his total of 66 _ count in the stats.

Paul Molitor got his 3,319th hit, and possibly his last one in the big leagues. The Cincinnati Reds assembled the majors' first all-brother infield _ a pair of Larkins, a pair of Boones. Ruben Amaro Jr. got the winning hit in his final major league game, then left to become Philadelphia's assistant general manager.

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Halladay started the rush, losing his no-hit bid when Detroit pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson homered with two outs in the ninth inning at SkyDome.

Dave Stieb, the only Toronto pitcher to throw a no-hitter, caught Higginson's ball after it bounced off a wall in the Blue Jays bullpen.

"Stieb told me congratulations," said Halladay, 21. "To have him acknowledge something like that made me feel good, and hopefully somewhere down the road I'll get a chance to do it again."

Then it was Mark McGwire's turn. The slugger who hit a grand slam on opening day ended his season with a smash _ two of them, that is.

Baseball actually spilled over into football when, across town, the announcement of McGwire's home run cost the St. Louis Rams a 5-yard penalty. A huge cheer erupted at the Trans World Dome and seemed to disrupt the Rams' play calling, leading to an illegal motion penalty.

The Cubs, Giants and the New York Mets all missed out. While the Mets fell out of contention, Chicago and San Francisco lost chances to win the wild-card outright.

Chicago was beaten 4-3 in 11 innings at Houston. But as some of the Cubs were walking off the field, they heard the result from Colorado _ Rockies 9, Giants 8, on a home run by Neifi Perez.

"I'm halfway up the stairs coming to the clubhouse and people were in here celebrating," Cubs closer Rod Beck said. "I knew it wasn't because we did good. People were jumping up and down shouting, 'There's a tomorrow! There's a tomorrow!"'


Williams, who began the day leading the AL batting race by less than a point, went 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly to finish at .339. Vaughn went 2-for-4 and hit .337.

The Yankees won their seventh straight game for their 114th victory. Only the 1906 Cubs (116) won more.

The Florida Marlins finished at 54-108, the worst record in the majors in 19 years and the worst ever for a defending World Series champion.

Vaughn's homer for San Diego made him the fourth player to hit 50 homers this year, joining McGwire, Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. (56). Never before had more than two players reached 50 the same season.

Molitor singled in the eighth inning in Minnesota's 6-2 win over Cleveland at the Metrodome. The 42-year-old Twins star is leaning toward retirement.

"It was tough to try to stay composed," Molitor said. "I was a little emotional, and I was trying to dig deep for some self-control."

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