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