10/04/2003 11:16 PM ET
Cubs still struggling at plate
Lack of offensive production a problem in NLDS
CHICAGO -- It's starting to sound like a broken record.
The Chicago Cubs need to score more runs and get the
offense in gear if they want to win postseason
ballgames. But this time, it's down to their last shot.
A 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night at
Wrigley Field forced a Game 5 in Atlanta at Turner
Field on Sunday night. This one is for all the marbles --
win or go home.
In the first four games of the five-game set, the Cubs
scored 14 runs. The most they plated was four in Games
1 and 4. In Game 1, the winning runs came courtesy of
a pitcher, when Kerry Wood connected for the
game-winning two-run double.
Saturday, the runs came off a two-out Moises Alou
double, a Damian Miller run-scoring single and a pair of
homers by Eric Karros.
The offense has not been in top form this last week.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker knows his team has had
opportunities, but has not capitalized on them well
"Most of the time when we lose, we hit (into) double
plays," Baker said. "We had some opportunities to come
back. It was a tough day at the ballpark today, but
when the series started, you know we're playing a
quality team that's been there before. Deep down in my
heart, I didn't want to admit it, but I thought it was
going to go five games."
The Cubs have stranded 33 runners in the postseason,
and left eight on base in each of the last three games.
They have also hit into seven double plays.
Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou have reached base 17 times
combined this series and hit .379. The Cubs have been
led by Alou's and Karros' .500 averages with Randall
Simon trailing them at .429.
Among the 13 position players on the roster, eight are
hitting below .200 and five have not recorded a hit.
In one of the best mano-a-mano moments in the series,
Sosa came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth
Saturday night with two outs, a runner on and a two-run
deficit. He was facing Braves reliever John Smoltz, one
of the top closers in the league.
Sosa flew out to straightaway center field, mere feet
from a home run that could have tied the ballgame. It
seems that's how things have gone for the Cubs so far
"Too bad today's game went like that," Sosa said.
"He's got a good fastball, I've got a good swing. I
thought it had a little more distance, but I knew I didn't
have a full swing."
While Paul Bako and Miller are calling good games
behind the plate, they didn't have a hit between them
until Miller's RBI single in the ninth inning Saturday.
Mark Grudzielanek's .125 average is not helping the Cubs
move leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton, who has reached six
times, around the bases either.
Miller said the key to turning it around against
Braves lefty Mike Hampton in Game 5 is going to be
"We need to work the counts," Miller said. "We've got
a chance to put these guys away (Sunday)."
Karros, who knocked two homers on Saturday and is
6-for-12 overall, said he knew the games were going to be
"I didn't think it was going to be a situation where
either club blows the other out," he said.
But if the Cubs are going to win their first
postseason series since 1908 with a victory Sunday, they're
going to have to either manufacture some runs or hope the
long ball can carry them through.
Sosa isn't worried about his team's lack of offensive
production because he has seen them come back from
adversity time after time this season.
"That's what happens when you have a good team," he
Sternig is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This
story was not subject to approval by Major League
Baseball or its clubs.
By Amy Sternig / MLB.com