10/07/2003 11:41 PM ET
Fish don't flop after big Sosa bop
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Game 1 wrapup: Marlins 9, Cubs 8
CHICAGO -- Hold onto your National League Championship Series tickets, folks. It's going to be a wild ride.
Pinch-hitter Mike Lowell launched a leadoff homer in the 11th inning to power the Florida Marlins to a 9-8 victory Tuesday night over the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the NLCS.
This was an exhausting game for the 39,567 at Wrigley Field -- and for both teams. The Cubs opened a 4-0 lead in the first, fell behind, then Alex Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in the sixth to tie it, then the Marlins took the lead again, and then Sammy Sosa belted a game-tying two-run homer in the ninth. It was perfect timing, too. Sosa was a non-factor in the NL Division Series, hitting .188 with one RBI. But it wasn't enough.
"Tonight was a great game," Cubs reliever Joe Borowski said. "If this is any indication of how it's going to be, you're going to be on the edge of your seat the whole time."
Chicago's Mark Prior, who threw a two-hitter in Game 3 of the NLDS against Atlanta, will start Game 2 of this best-of-seven series Wednesday against Florida's Brad Penny. Be prepared for anything.
Lowell sent a 3-2 pitch from Mark Guthrie (0-1) to straightaway center field, the 17th extra-base hit in the game, which is an LCS record. Ugueth Urbina (1-0), who served up Sosa's game-tying two-run homer in the ninth, picked up the win. It wasn't an easy one, either.
The Marlins had taken an 8-6 lead in the ninth on Ivan Rodriguez's one-out, two-run single off Borowski. Florida was one out away from ending the game in the normal nine innings when Sosa belted his first postseason homer to tie the game. Sosa was 1-for-11 lifetime off Urbina.
"Sammy came through with a huge hit for us," Cubs second baseman Mark Grudzielanek said.
Asked if it was a magical moment, Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger quipped, "Not as magical as if it had been a three-run homer."
"It's disheartening," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the loss. "We had opportunities to win that game a couple of times earlier and could tell it was going to be that kind of day with the ball flying out of the park.
"We made mistakes and they didn't miss them," Baker said. "That was a heck of a game. It's sad we came out on the short end."
The Cubs are trying to take that giant step and get to the World Series for the first time since 1945. By comparison, the Marlins, who have only been in existence since 1993, were there fairly recently, winning it all in '97.
Chicago did go 4-2 against Florida in the regular season, including a win over Game 1 starter Josh Beckett on July 7. But those stats don't count in October.
Baker pulled out all the stops. He was wearing the same gray wristbands with a blue stripe that he had on for Game 5 of the Division Series and had his personal good-luck charm, 4-year-old son Darren, with him for the pregame introductions and national anthem.
You won't see those wristbands Wednesday.
The Cubs will take as much good karma as they can get. The crowd, basking in unseasonably warm 75-degree temperatures, did its part. And Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano kept his emotions in check. He just couldn't keep the ball in the park.
The Cubs gave the young right-hander a 4-0 cushion in the first. Mark Grudzielanek hit a triple over center fielder Juan Pierre, driving in Kenny Lofton, who had walked. One out later, Moises Alou followed with his fourth career postseason home run and first this year, launching a 1-0 pitch from Beckett onto Waveland Avenue over the left-field bleachers to make it 3-0.
Aramis Ramirez then tripled -- the first time the Cubs have had two triples in a postseason game. Ramirez scored on Gonzalez's double past a diving Jeff Conine in left.
Zambrano led the National League with the lowest ratio of home runs-to-innings pitched, serving up nine in 214 innings this season. He was tagged for three in the third.
Pierre tripled with one out in the inning, Luis Castillo walked and both scored on Rodriguez's home run to close to 4-3. Miguel Cabrera and Juan Encarnacion hit back-to-back homers to go ahead 5-4. It was the first time in NLCS history a team had hit three home runs in one inning.
Even more amazing: The two teams combined for 10 hits through the first three innings and none were singles.
"I read that in the stat sheet today, that [Zambrano] only gave up nine home runs all year," Cubs catcher Damian Miller said. "I didn't realize that. He just made mistakes over the plate. He's a sinker, ground-ball pitcher and he left the ball up."
Zambrano exited after giving up six runs -- five earned -- on nine hits over six innings.
"I wasn't very good today," Zambrano said. "They hit a lot of pitches, they made the adjustment and they hit it out of the ballpark."
Conine added a sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 6-4. Beckett regrouped -- he threw 20 pitches in the first inning -- and then held the Cubs to one hit over the next four innings. But with two out in the Chicago sixth, Randall Simon doubled and Gonzalez followed with his second postseason home run to tie the game at 6-6.
"[The Marlins] are a really good team," Remlinger said. "We've said that and I don't think people believe it. This is a very good team and they have a lot of heart -- but so do we. One game doesn't make or break the whole series. And we've got our guy going [Wednesday]."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.