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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: DODGERS VS. CHICAGO : CUBS FYI

Cubs keeping expectations in check

October 01, 2008|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- A few steps from Wrigley Field, on the other side of Addison Street, is a store that sells Chicago Cubs souvenirs where the sign in front reads "This is Our Year."

Indeed, there has been a strong feeling among Cubs fans that after going a century without a World Series title, this year's club -- with the best record in the National League -- might finally deliver the championship.

But the Cubs themselves are trying to keep a lid on expectations as they open the NL division series against the Dodgers today.

Being the favorite based on a better regular-season record "means nothing," Cubs Manager Lou Piniella said before the teams worked out Tuesday.

"Any team that gets in the postseason is very, very capable of winning," he said.

The Cubs' general manger, Jim Hendry, said "there's no advantage, there's no favorites and our guys aren't worrying about what's happened behind them in the past.

"Our fans deserve a chance to win, I hope it happens for them," he said. "But I don't think our guys are feeling any different about it than if they were with another club."

Been there, done that

Derek Lowe, the Dodgers' right-hander who starts Game 1 today, knows all about how a team carries the hopes of a city on its shoulders.

Lowe was a member of the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who finally won the World Series after an 86-year drought.

"It does kind of annoy you, I think, after a while, because no matter what they do you're always going to get that question of 'When are you going to stop the streak?' " said Lowe, who was 14-11 with a 3.24 earned-run average during the regular season this year.

"I know in Boston it did get tiresome to keep [hearing] those same questions, but I don't think it adds any extra pressure this year for [the Cubs].

"They're ready to win in '08 and not really worrying about the last 100 years."

Second chance

Chicago will counter today with Ryan Dempster, whose 17-6 record in the regular season included a 14-3 mark at Wrigley, the best for a Cubs pitcher since Ferguson Jenkins' record 15 home wins in 1967.

"Getting swept in the playoffs last year [by the Arizona Diamondbacks] left a sour taste in our mouth, and I think that's why guys were so driven to get back there," Dempster said.

"To win back-to-back division championships [in the NL Central] is not an easy thing to do. But I think the general consensus of our team is we want more than that."

Dempster also said he doesn't underestimate the Dodgers.

Manny Ramirez "makes the people around him, I think, a lot better hitters," he said, and "then you look at the way Casey Blake's come over and the stuff he's done. Jeff Kent's back. [Rafael] Furcal's back. Andre Ethier is swinging the bat really well.

"It's a tough lineup."

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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