The nation can boo, hiss and cuss at Jack McKeon and his pitchers all they want. The Cincinnati Reds manager will not compromise his team's chance to win a game, despite its dismal location in the standings, simply to give Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa an opportunity to move closer to or break Roger Maris' home run record in the coming weeks.

Starting Tuesday, when the Chicago Cubs come to Cinergy Field to open a two-game series, the Reds will face either Sosa or McGwire in eight of their next 12 games. The Reds will also be at Wrigley Field for three games Sept. 18-20.The Reds have played the Cubs only three times this season (May 15-17 in Cincinnati) and Sosa went 5-for-12 (.417) with one homer, four RBI, two walks (one intentional) and four strikeouts. He hit a three-run bomb off Scott Sullivan on May 16, but the games were played well before Homermania gripped the hemisphere.

The Reds faced McGwire just before and after the All-Star break, when the mammoth slugger was at his hottest. McKeon insisted that he be pitched with extreme caution, which led to 11 walks, including five intentional passes, in six games. McGwire has hit only .154 (2-for-13) vs. the Reds and has not driven in a run. He has struck out twice and was hit by a Mike Remlinger pitch.