Even after tying things up again, Sammy Sosa maintains that Mark McGwire will beat him out in the Great Home Run Chase of 1998.

To his way of thinking, all the beefy St. Louis slugger has to do is worry about swinging for the fences because the Cardinals are out of the playoff picture.Sosa has a few more things on his mind than hitting home runs.

Like helping the Chicago Cubs win the NL wild-card berth. They are tied with the New York Mets with three games left.

"When you're trying to go to the playoffs, you're never thinking about home runs," Sosa said after hitting Nos. 64 and 65 Wednesday off his favorite punching bags, the Milwaukee Brewers.

But McGwire can swing with abandon. If he strikes out, who cares? Sosa's more concerned about doing whatever he has to for a victory.

"I have to sacrifice myself to be on base," Sosa said. "And Mark, he doesn't have to go to the playoffs. And right there, that makes a lot of difference when you're swinging for the fence and you're swinging a different way."

The home run kings head into the home stretch tied for the major league record with 65 each. McGwire has four games left at home against the Montreal Expos and Sosa has three games to go on the road against Houston.

Too bad Sosa couldn't have stayed in Milwaukee a few more days. He's tagged Brewers pitching for 12 of his homers, the most against any team.

In fact, they are the most home runs by a player against one team since Roger Maris connected 13 times off the Chicago White Sox in 1961, the year he hit 61 homers.

But Chicago's slugger couldn't really celebrate his slump-busting performance. He was too busy worrying about others.

Sosa's thoughts and prayers were with his countrymen Wed-nes-day in the hurricane-ravaged Dominican Republic and with teammate Brant Brown, whose error kept the Cubs from taking a one-game lead over the Mets.

Brown dropped a fly ball that would have been the game's final out, allowing three runs to score in Milwaukee's stunning 8-7 victory over Chicago. The Brewers had trailed 7-0.

Fortunately for the Cubs, the Mets lost 3-0 to the Expos Wednesday night.

Sosa's homers once again put him back into the home run race when it looked like he was all but out of it. Just a day before, even he had conceded that McGwire would probably hold the record at the end of the season.

While Sosa broke out of an 0-for-21 slump with the solo homers, his thoughts were elsewhere after the game.

"What happened to Brownie today can happen to anybody who plays this game, and I think that he has a lot of support from our team," Sosa said. "We haven't given up yet. We have three games to go. We need to just forget about it today and keep going."

Sosa's slump-buster came on the same day his homeland began recovery from Hurricane Georges, which set off looting and street violence. Seventeen people died and much of the country lost electrical power.

Most of Sosa's immediate family members were in Chicago, where they had gathered for the "Sammy Sosa Celebration" last weekend.

*****

Additional Information

Wildcard races

AMERICAN W L Pct. GB

Boston 89 69 .563 -

Toronto 86 73 .541 3 1/2

Remaining schedules

BOSTON - HOME Sept. 24, 25, 26, 27, Baltimore; TORONTO - HOME Sept. 25, 26, 27 Detroit.

NATIONAL W L Pct. GB

Chicago 88 71 .553 -

New York 88 71 .553 -

San Francisco 86 72 .544 1 1/2

Remaining schedules

CHICAGO - AWAY 25, 26, 27, Houston; NEW YORK - AWAY 25, 26, 27, Atlanta; SAN FRANCISCO - HOME Sept. 24, Pittsburgh. AWAY Sept. 25, 26, 27, Colorado.