All About Brad!
Registered: Jun 2003
Local time: 07:48 PM
Location: Freezing in Colorado
By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
CHICAGO - Kerry Wood failed to hold an early lead and Wrigley Field fell silent as Florida capped its stunning NLCS comeback with a 9-6 win in Game 7 Wednesday night.
In the American League (news), the Boston Red Sox (news) rallied to beat the New York Yankees (news) 9-6, setting up a Game 7 to determine who will play the resilient Marlins in the World Series (news - web sites) starting Saturday night. The Yankees' Roger Clemens will face Pedro Martinez; the two started Game 3, which was marred by brushbacks and fights.
The Cubs were unable to end their long, strange drought because MVP Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera and the remarkable Marlins won their third straight game to clinch the National League (news) pennant.
"Nobody expected us to be in the World Series," Rodriguez said.
In a cruel twist to the Cubs' faithful, Florida will make its second Series trip in only 11 years of existence ? Chicago has been absent since 1945, prompting the team's sad little motto of "Wait 'Til Next Year."
"We didn't lose the pennant, the Marlins won it," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We were close and the Marlins took it from us, it's as simple as that."
Fittingly, Baker's 4-year-old son Darren added a final word when his dad was done talking.
"The Cubs will win next year," the little boy said.
Alex Gonzalez provided insurance with a two-run double to left-center field in the seventh inning for a 9-5 lead. The ball hopped up against the brick wall, covered with ivy that has changed colors to orange and red.
That poison ivy will certainly be tinged with tears, too.
Even after being shut out in Game 5 by Josh Beckett, Sammy Sosa and the Cubs were in excellent position as they returned home. But aces Mark Prior and Wood lost on back-to-back days for the first time this season and suddenly a sure thing had turned sour.
"Those are two tough guys to beat, I'll tell you what," Beckett said. "We got a break. Things work out for a reason, I guess."
A sellout crowd of 39,574 minus the infamous Steve Bartman ? the fan who deflected a foul ball during the Marlins' eighth-inning rally in Game 6, he was at home with a police guard ? had the old ballpark shaking as Wood and Moises Alou homered for a 5-3 lead.
But Wood could only flip his glove into the stands when the wild-card Marlins rallied. They scored three runs in the fifth, Luis Castillo added an RBI single in the sixth and then Gonzalez doubled.
Brad Penny won with an inning of scoreless relief for Mark Redman.
Beckett came out of the bullpen and pitched four innings of one-hit ball on two days' rest, allowing only a homer by pinch-hitter Troy O'Leary. Ugueth Urbina worked the ninth for a save.
Home teams had won 12 of the last 13 times a postseason series went to Game 7. But the Marlins became just the sixth team to ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series.
Florida has never lost a postseason series in its young history, going 5-0. That includes a thrilling Game 7 victory in 11 innings over Cleveland for the 1997 title.
At 72, Jack McKeon is the oldest manager to reach the World Series. That seemed farfetched when the Marlins were 19-29 back in late May, but McKeon, who had replaced the fired Jeff Torborg earlier in the month, somehow steered them this far.
"I told them the first meeting that if they worked hard, they'd be playing in October," he said.
Cabrera and Rodriguez once again played starring roles for Florida. Cabrera, a 20-year-old rookie, hit his third homer of the series and drove in four runs while Rodriguez singled home a run that gave him an NLCS-record 10 RBIs.
Down 5-3 in the fifth, Rodriguez doubled home a run and Cabrera tied it with an RBI grounder. Derrek Lee, whose double keyed the eight-run rally in Game 6, followed with a single that put Florida ahead 6-5.
The Cubs had been hoping this would be the year they got a chance to win their first Series championship since 1908.
Instead, add this failure to all of their previous disappointments. That includes wasting a 2-0 lead over San Diego in the best-of-five NLCS, blowing a late lead in the 1969 NL race and losing Game 7 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field to Detroit.
Baker was trying to become the first manager in history to lead two different teams to the World Series in consecutive years. Rather, he fell short, just as he did last year when his San Francisco Giants (news) lost the last two games of the World Series at Anaheim.
At the start, the omens and the offense favored Florida.
Juan Pierre led off the game with a triple that one-hopped off the right-field wall, and Sosa slipped and fell chasing it.
Rodriguez worked for a full-count walk and Cabrera launched a drive way back into the left-center field bleachers. Rodriguez put his arm in the air as he circled the bases while a fan threw back the souvenir.
The homer marked the first time in the NLCS that the Marlins had scored in the first. And it seemed to stun Wood, who bounced a half-dozen pitches in the inning.
But the Cubs were not down for long.
Eric Karros singled to start the second, Alex Gonzalez doubled and Damian Miller had an RBI groundout. That brought up Wood, a big boy who can swing the bat.
Wood put a charge into a 3-2 pitch, sending a shot into the left-center bleachers. He never even looked at the ball, dropping his head as he began his tying trot.
Back in the dugout, Wood worked his way down the bench, exchanging high-fives with everyone. The ballpark was pulsating and one fan heading back to his seat with beers set them down, hugged a security guard and slapped hands with other rooters.
Wood, with six career homers in the regular season, kept up his recent production at the plate. He had five RBIs this postseason ? more than AL All-Star hitters Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciparra combined.
Alou put Chicago ahead 5-3 with a two-run homer onto Waveland Avenue in the third. He also made a couple of neat catches, once flipping the ball into the seats ? right near the spot that caused so much trouble a day earlier ? after a diving grab that ended the fourth.
Earlier in the game, Chicago's Aramis Ramirez hooked a hard line drive into the area. The foul ball was a bullet and reached the stands in about a second, but at least one fan sitting there still yelled out, "Don't touch it!"
Notes:@ O'Leary's homer was the 23rd of the NLCS, the most ever in a postseason series. Seattle and New York hit 22 in the 1995 AL division series. ... Rodriguez has gotten a hit in all 11 of the Marlins' postseason games this year. ... Wood was the fourth pitcher to homer in NLCS play, the first since Rick Sutcliffe of the Cubs in 1984.
10-16-2003 03:23 PM
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