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Wood you believe? Cubs in NLCS!
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10/05/2003 10:58 PM ET 
Wood you believe? Cubs in NLCS!
Wood hurls Chicago to NLCS matchup with Marlins
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com

Kerry Wood allowed just one run on five hits over eight innings of work to earn the win. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
  • Game 5 wrapup: Cubs 5, Braves 1

    ATLANTA -- When Dusty Baker took over the Chicago Cubs last November, he asked, "Why not us?" Why not, indeed.

    The Cubs took a huge, historic step by beating the Atlanta Braves, 5-1, Sunday night in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. The Cubs will go fishing -- one of Baker's favorite hobbies -- and advance to the NL Championship Series against the Florida Marlins.

    For the first time in 95 years, the Cubs won a postseason series. It just seems longer.

    Give Kerry Wood the game ball. And get him his own glove, too. Wood used Mark Prior's glove on Sunday night because he made a mistake any 20-something-year-old would. Not that Wood needed any extra oomph on his fastball. The Major League strikeout leader fanned seven, and it was just a question of whether the Braves would go down swinging or looking.

    "I did not put my glove in my bag when we left [Chicago]," Wood said, "so I had to find a glove, so I tried to find one with a lot of strikes in it."

    That's about the only mistake Kid K made.

    "If there's an MVP in the series, it should be Wood," Baker said. "He was under control, he was composed. You could see his maturity as a person and as a pitcher and he's going to go a long, long way in his life and future."

    The winner in Game 1 with an 11-strikeout effort, Wood held the Braves to one run -- and it was questionable -- on five hits over eight innings. His 18 total Ks are the second-highest in Division Series history, trailing Kevin Brown, who struck out 21 in 1998 for San Diego.

    "I felt more comfortable today for some reason," Wood said, comparing Game 5 to the series opener. "I'm not sure exactly why. I was a little more nervous in the first game coming out of the bullpen.

    "Today was very different for some reason," he said. "It was kind of freaking me out a little bit. I wasn't really nervous. I was just really prepared to go out and pitch my game."

    Wood is 5-0 in his last six starts, and has given up six runs in 44 1/3 innings. Nice time to peak.

    Atlanta, which reached the postseason for a 12th consecutive year, goes home. The Cubs, by comparison, are in the playoffs for only the 14th time in franchise history.

    "Their pitching was awfully strong," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "We failed to beat the two big guys one game out of three. That's what it would've taken."

    Chicago had not won a postseason series since the 1908 World Series. Maybe that's why planeloads of Cub fans flew to Atlanta for Sunday's game, overloading the record-setting crowd of 54,357 with bright blue and chants of "Let's go Cubs."

    "The atmosphere was unbelievable," Cubs closer Joe Borowski said. "It was almost like we were playing a home game."

    The Cubs players celebrated with them, running onto the field and spraying champagne at their faithful, who won't mind flying home smelling of stale bubbly.

    "I told Dusty, I used to be home by this time," said Aramis Ramirez, who hit a two-run homer for the Cubs. "This is unbelievable."

    This was the third time the Cubs have played a decisive playoff game -- although one could argue they're all decisive. Chicago lost in the seventh game of the 1945 World Series, which was their last trip to the championship round, and also in Game 5 of the 1984 NLCS.

    Baker and the Cubs aren't finished.

    "I'm looking forward to going back to the World Series," said Baker, who led the Giants there last year.

    Alex Gonzalez added a solo homer to Ramirez's blast to lift the Cubs, who will open the best-of-seven NLCS Tuesday at Wrigley Field. The Wild Card Marlins have had their bags packed and ready to go since beating Baker's former team, the San Francisco Giants, on Saturday.

    The Cubs offense got off to a quick start against Mike Hampton, who was pitching on short rest. Kenny Lofton doubled to lead off the game, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Moises Alou's single to left.

    Gonzalez, who did not start in Game 2 against Hampton, primarily because he was 1-for-7 against the lefty, led off the second inning with his first playoff homer to go ahead, 2-0.

    Ramirez made it 4-0 in the sixth, launching his first playoff homer over the center field wall to score Alou who had reached on an infield single that hopped over Hampton on the mound.

    It got weird in the sixth. Atlanta had runners at first and second and none out. Gary Sheffield lofted the ball to shallow center and Lofton made a sliding catch -- or at least thought he did. Left field umpire Dale Scott ruled Lofton didn't make the play, and a run scored on the fielder's choice.

    The Cubs smartly stepped on second to force the other runner. Both sides argued, which allowed more time to show the replay of Lofton's catch that wasn't.

    "I caught the ball, so it wasn't on me," Lofton said. "I threw the ball into second base and looked around and the umpire said 'No catch.'"

    Pinch-hitter Tom Goodwin added a RBI double with two out in the ninth, and then the party really got started in Wrigleyville.

    Chicago has played well on the road all season because, as reliever Mike Remlinger says, they get to sleep late in the morning. Can't dawdle too long Monday. The Cubs have another round to go.

    "We'll celebrate on the way back to Chicago," Borowski said. "[Monday] it's back to reality and back to work."

    Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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