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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

Marlins Are the Big Powerball Winners

In a game with seven homers, Florida wins Game 1, 9-8, thanks to Lowell's pinch-hit shot in the 11th inning, overshadowing Sosa's tying blast.

October 08, 2003|Paul Sullivan | Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — The bunting was out, the weather was perfect and everything seemed to be in place for Game 1 of the National League championship series on Tuesday night before a sellout crowd of 39,567 at Wrigley Field.

What the fans got was an instant classic, as the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins traded comebacks and battled into extra innings before the Marlins won, 9-8, on Mike Lowell's leadoff pinch-hit home run off Mark Guthrie in the 11th inning.

Sidelined a month because of a broken left hand, it was Lowell's first homer since Aug. 15.

"The fact we've done it during the course of the season makes you believe," said Lowell, who raised his right arm in triumph between first and second. "It's the biggest home run I've hit. I was just looking at [center fielder] Kenny Lofton hoping he didn't have a bead on it. Things worked out nice."

In a wild ninth inning, Sammy Sosa's two-out, two-run homer off Ugueth Urbina tied the score, 8-8, minutes after the Marlins scored two in the top of the ninth after a disputed call that went against the Cubs.

After Kenny Lofton doubled with one out in the ninth, Sosa came up with two out, mired in a three-for-20 postseason slump. But Sosa sent a 1-and-1 pitch into an awaiting mob on Waveland Avenue, turning Wrigley Field into one giant mosh pit.

Sosa's homer erased a disastrous ninth when umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled Marlin center fielder Juan Pierre safe at second base after Mark Grudzielanek attempted to tag him on a grounder with two on and one out. Culbreth ruled Grudzielanek never had control of the ball before tagging Pierre, leaving the bases loaded and still one out. Replays backed the umpire's ruling.

Ivan Rodriguez followed with a two-run single off Joe Borowski to give the Marlins an 8-6 lead.

"Despite the way we've been playing, they just kept coming back, coming back," Sosa said. "They have a lot of heart for a young team."

The Cubs and Marlins set a league championship series game record for combined home runs (seven) and set the record for most combined triples (four) and extra-base hits (17).

The Cubs opened up with a bang, scoring four runs in the first. After Lofton opened with a walk, Grudzielanek hit a shot to center that Pierre misjudged, turning the wrong way and slipping as it sailed over his head for an RBI triple.

Moises Alou promptly slammed a two-run homer to make it 3-0 and Aramis Ramirez tripled to the center-field wall two pitches later. When Alex Gonzalez's two-out double brought Ramirez home to make it 4-0, many in the crowd probably were thinking World Series.

The Marlins had other thoughts.

After Pierre tripled off Carlos Zambrano leading off the third and Luis Castillo walked, Rodriguez cranked a three-run homer into the left-field bleachers to pull the Marlins within a run. Miguel Cabrera homered to left one out later to tie the score and Juan Encarnacion followed with another shot to left to give the Marlins a 5-4 lead.

"In that inning, a lot of good things happened for us," Cabrera said. "The pitcher made some mistakes."

Zambrano, who had served up only nine home runs in 214 innings, suddenly had given up three homers in a span of four batters, temporarily taking the crowd out of the game.

"That's playoff baseball," Cub Manager Dusty Baker said. "It was full of emotional twists. I'm sure everyone is emotionally exhausted.

"It's disheartening. We had an opportunity to win the game. Sad we came out on the short end, very sad."

The Marlins, meanwhile, knew that it was only one game.

"It's nice to start with a win," Rodriguez said. "Now we've got to concentrate on trying to win tomorrow too."

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Times wire services contributed to this story.

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(Begin Text of Infobox)

FIRST INNING: Cubs 4, Marlins 0

HOW THEY SCORED

FIRST INNING: Cubs 4, Marlins 0--Lofton walked. Grudzielanek tripled to center, Lofton scoring. Sosa popped to third. Alou homered to left, his first. Ramirez tripled to center. Simon struck out. Gonzalez doubled to left, Ramirez scoring. Bako flied to left. Four runs, four hits, one left.

THIRD INNING: Marlins 5, Cubs 4--With one out, Pierre tripled to right. Castillo walked. Rodriguez homered to left, his first. Lee struck out. Cabrera homered to left, his first. Encarnacion homered to left, his first. Conine flied to right. Five runs, four hits.

SIXTH INNING: Marlins 6, Cubs 4--Cabrera singled to short. Encarnacion singled to center, Cabrera stopping at second. Cabrera advanced to third on Bako's passed ball, Encarnacion advanced to second. Conine sacrificed to center, Cabrera scoring, Encarnacion taking third. Gonzalez fouled to third. Beckett struck out. One run, two hits, one left.

Cubs 6, Marlins 6--With two out, Simon doubled to right. Gonzalez homered to right, his first. Bako struck out. Two runs, two hits.

NINTH INNING: Marlins 8, Cubs 6--With one out and Borowski pitching, Hollandsworth, pinch-hitting for Fox, doubled to center. Pierre walked. Castillo reached safely on Grudzielanek's error, loading the bases. Rodriguez singled to right, Hollandsworth and Pierre scoring, Castillo stopping at third. Lee popped to second. Cabrera forced Rodriguez. Two runs, two hits, one error, two left on.

Cubs 8, Marlins 8--With one out and Urbina pitching, Lofton doubled to right. Grudzielanek grounded to third. Sosa homered to left, his first. Alou flied to right. Two runs, two hits.

ELEVENTH INNING: Marlins 9, Cubs 8--Guthrie pitching. Lowell, pinch-hitting for Urbina, homered to center, his first. Pierre grounded to second. Alfonseca replaced Urbina. Castillo singled to short. Castillo stole second. Rodriguez was walked intentionally. Lee walked, loading the bases. Cabrera lined into a double play. One run, two hits, two left on.

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