10/07/2003 9:59 PM ET
Extra-base hits in vogue at Wrigley
CHICAGO -- Triple your pleasure, triple your fun. It was quadruple-triple Tuesday at Wrigley Field, with two teams going the extra mile -- not to mention the extra base, and more than occasionally out of the yard.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Within a one-and-a-half-inning span, the Cubs and Marlins combined for more triples than any two teams had ever hit in a single game in League Championship Series history. By the end of the night, they had also equaled or broken single-game records for home runs and extra-base hits. Powerball, indeed.
The Cubs tied the LCS record for triples by a team in an inning with two, and the Marlins had two of their own by the end of the third. Then Florida went one better, crunching three homers in an inning to equal yet another record for baseball's semifinal round.
The records weren't done there, and as the game went on the marks became more impressive. Todd Hollandsworth's pinch-double in the ninth set a new mark for the most extra-base hits by two teams in an LCS game with 13 -- the final tally came in at 17. The Cubs' nine long hits set a single team LCS record. Oh and Mike Lowell's game-winning homer in the 11th? That was the seventh of the contest -- also the most ever tallied in a League Championship Series game.
This, in a game between two teams built around starting pitching and slap hitting. This, in a game at Wrigley Field, where fall is supposed to mean a cold north wind blowing in from off the lake.
But Carlos Zambrano and Josh Beckett weren't sharp. And it was a balmy 75 degrees at game time, with a slight (6 mph) breeze out rather than in. It was hitters' weather. It was, truthfully, early-summer weather.
"It was a bad day for pitchers," said Beckett. "I don't really know what else to say."
Still, the hitters had to take advantage of it. And did they ever.
"There were no cheap hits out there tonight," said Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who singled, doubled and homered. "You can't blame it on the wind, saying there were some cheap balls, because all those balls would have been home runs regardless. There were some line drives hit. I think it was just good hitting out there.
"But any time you see the flags blowing out, you prepare yourself for a high-scoring game."
It also helped that several of the extra-base hits -- the ones that stayed in the yard at least -- were, shall we say, defense-aided, but more on that in a bit.
The parade started quickly. The second batter of the game, Luis Castillo, doubled to left. Then they got serious about things.
Mark Grudzielanek tripled in the bottom of the first, at the expense of Florida center fielder Juan Pierre. The Cubs second baseman lined a ball straight ahead to center, and Pierre slipped on the outfield grass. Two batters later, Grudzielanek scored on Moises Alou's homer as the Cubs took an early lead.
No sooner was Alou high-fiving his teammates in the dugout, however, than Aramis Ramirez was rocketing a ball to deep center. Pierre got on his horse -- he didn't fall this time -- and raced out to the ivy-covered brick wall to try to make a play. He got there. He leapt into the wall. And his glove and the ball did not come particularly close to one another. The Cubs' second triple in the inning tied an LCS record set twice before, by the Royals in 1977 and the Phillies in 1993.
It figured, then, that the speedy Marlins would get in on the three-base fun. In the top of the second, Jeff Conine lofted a ball into the right-field corner that Sammy Sosa gave chase to, but Sosa slid several feet too soon. Pierre rapped the most "traditional" triple in the third, lining a ball off the wall in right and making the most of his blazing speed to race into third. It was triple No. 4 for the two teams, setting a new League Championship Series record.
With the record for triples thus dispensed with, Florida moved on to the long ball. Ivan Rodriguez crushed a three-run shot, scoring Pierre and Luis Castillo, who had walked. Miguel Cabrera and Juan Encarnacion came up with back-to-back shots, giving the Fish their first lead of the series.
Oh, and setting another record. No team had ever hit three homers in an inning in an NLCS game before -- it has happened four times in the American League, most recently by the Indians in 1998.
It was unclear whether it was any kind of record was set when the first 10 hits of the game went for extra bases, but no one would be surprised if it were. The game's first single came courtesy of Beckett in the fourth.
Chicago's Damian Miller hit a leadoff double in the seventh inning, the game's 13th extra-base hit, to set a LCS record. Sosa tied the two-team, one-game homer record with a thrilling two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth blast to tie the game -- giving Lowell a chance to break the record as well as win the game. Of course, Sosa has hit his share in all conditions here, so he wasn't too concerned about it.
"I'm really not a weatherman. You know? I really don't worry about those kinds of things. One thing I know, today was a great day for baseball."
And it was all capped Lowell's longball, which not only served as a defining moment in a classic ballgame, but gave the two teams lucky seven dingers.
Who would have thunk it?
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.