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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

Cubs Ace Their History Test

Chicago wins its first postseason series since 1908 as Wood dominates the Braves for the second time in a 5-1 victory. Cubs play host to Marlins on Tuesday.

October 06, 2003|Paul Sullivan | Chicago Tribune

ATLANTA — After all was said and done and the Chicago Cubs had clinched their first postseason series victory since 1908, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Mike Remlinger ran out to the stands of Turner Field and began dousing the fans with champagne.

After a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the decisive Game 5 of their National League division series, it was time to share the glory.

Drinks were on the house.

"I'm just happy for everybody in the Cubs' organization," Manager Dusty Baker said. "All the players, the people of Chicago. And I'm really happy for Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and especially Ron Santo, because he couldn't be here."

The rap of lovable losers has haunted the organization for years, but Sunday's victory seemed to change it all in the blink of an eye.

"We didn't listen to it," Wood said, "We stayed positive, and having Dusty in that [manager's] seat helps. Hopefully we won't hear that too much in the future."

Wood was the man of the hour in the series-clinching victory, his second of the series. The day started out on the wrong foot when he learned he forgot to pack his glove before leaving Chicago after Saturday's game. He scrambled to find a new one before settling for one of Mark Prior's.

"I figured I'd find one that knew the strike zone," Wood said.

Wood wore it well, dominating the Braves through eight innings, allowing one run on five hits with seven strikeouts.

The Cubs will face the Florida Marlins in the best-of-seven National League championship series, beginning Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs appeared relaxed and confident before the game. Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou and Randall Simon played pepper around the batting cage, while Baker exchanged hugs with Brave players Gary Sheffield and Russ Ortiz.

It was business as usual, and the Cubs made a habit of playing well on the road, which Baker often referred to as "business trips."

They made Brave starter Mike Hampton work in the first inning, showing patience at the plate and making him throw 30 pitches.

Kenny Lofton started with a double to left, advancing to third on a wild pitch with Sosa at the plate. After Sosa walked, Alou dumped a single in front of left fielder Chipper Jones to bring Lofton home, giving the Cubs a quick lead.

Alex Gonzalez made it 2-0 in the second with a leadoff homer to center field, only the Cubs' third of the series.

The Braves didn't threaten until Javy Lopez doubled with two out in the fourth, but Wood reared back and struck out Andruw Jones on a 97-mph. fastball. Alou's infield hit in the sixth preceded a two-run homer by Aramis Ramirez, making it a 4-0 game and giving Wood some room to breathe.

The Braves finally got to Wood in the sixth after a leadoff walk to Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles' sharp single. Sheffield, who sat out Game 4 after being hit in the left hand with a Prior pitch in Game 3, followed with a liner into short-center field that forced Lofton to make a sliding catch.

But second-base umpire Bruce Froemming ruled Lofton trapped the ball, allowing Furcal to score from second to make it 4-1. Froemming is famous in Cub history for ending Milt Pappas' perfect game on Sept. 2, 1972, calling a ball on a close 3-2 pitch with two out in the ninth, leaving Pappas with a no-hitter.

Fortunately for the Cubs, Giles was confused about the call and Lofton was able to get a force at second before he and Baker began arguing with Froemming. Replays backed Lofton's argument.

Wood then induced Chipper Jones to ground into an inning-ending double play, and the energy level at Turner Field dropped in a nano-second. The next inning, after Gonzalez let a Vinny Castilla liner glance off his glove, Mark Grudzielanek was in perfect position to scoop it up and throw Castilla out, ending the threat.

It was that kind of a night for Wood. It has been that kind of a season for the Cubs.

Baker thought Wood was spent after 117 pitches, and sent Tom Goodwin to pinch-hit with runners on the corners and two out in the eighth. Goodwin doubled to right off ex-Cub Will Cunnane to score Karros.

When Chipper Jones sent a long fly ball to the wall in right leading off the ninth against Joe Borowski, Sosa leaped to make the catch. Borowski promptly struck out Lopez and Andruw Jones, closing out the victory in style.

"We just didn't make any adjustments," Brave closer John Smoltz said. "They pitched the same way the whole series. But they dominated."

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HOW THEY SCORED

FIRST INNING: Cubs 1, Braves 0--Lofton doubled to right. Grudzielanek struck out. Lofton took third on Hampton's wild pitch. Sosa walked. Alou singled to left, Lofton scoring, Sosa stopping at second. Ramirez forced Alou. Karros struck out. One run, two hits, two left.

SECOND INNING: Cubs 2, Braves 0--Gonzalez homered to center, his first. Miller grounded to short. Wood struck out. Lofton grounded to third. One run, one hit.

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