10/08/2003 11:24 PM ET
Cubs flatten Fish to even series
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Game 2 wrapup: Cubs 12, Marlins 3
CHICAGO -- With one swing, Sammy Sosa recharged the Chicago Cubs. With seven-plus innings, Mark Prior revived them. Alex Gonzalez amazed them. The National League Championship Series is now a best-of-five.
Sosa belted a towering two-run homer and Prior continued his poised postseason run as the Cubs romped, 12-3, over the Florida Marlins on Wednesday night to even the NLCS at one win apiece.
"These two games are over," Prior said, "and in my eyes, we start Game 1 down there and go from there."
Game 3 will be Friday when the best-of-seven series heads south to Pro Player Stadium. Kerry Wood, who went 2-0 in the Division Series, will start against Florida's Mark Redman. Just think palm trees and oranges instead of bricks and ivy.
In 17 of the last 33 NL Championship Series, the loser of Game 1 has bounced back to win Game 2, and of those 17 teams, eight have gone on to win the pennant. Got a ticket to Miami? There was a guy near the "L" tracks at Sheffield Avenue and Addison Street selling them for the games in Florida.
Sosa will be there. He was quiet during the Division Series, going 3-for-16, but he's found his stroke in the LCS. Maybe it's the unusual warm weather. The Cubs right fielder, coming off his sixth consecutive 40-homer season, hit his second homer of the LCS in the second.
"I never panic because I know what I can do," Sosa said.
This wasn't a normal home run. This one was measured at 495 feet and landed on top of a shack that covers a TV camera in straightaway center. It went a long way. Sosa deserved to hop.
"That's the farthest home run I've ever seen," Chicago's Aramis Ramirez said. "That was huge."
"Two of mine probably equaled the one of his," said the Cubs' Alex Gonzalez, who hit a pair Wednesday.
"I've never seen anybody hit a ball like he did," Randall Simon said.
"With that swing Sammy has, anything can happen," Kenny Lofton said.
Prior (1-0) was coming off a two-hit, complete-game victory over Atlanta in the Division Series. He gave up more hits to the Marlins in the first two innings Wednesday but held them to eight over seven-plus innings, striking out five.
The 23-year-old right-hander looked human when he served up back-to-back homers to Derrek Lee and Miguel Cabrera in the Marlins sixth. Prior threw 116 pitches and is on schedule to start Game 6, if necessary. Cubs manager Dusty Baker hinted before the game that Prior could go in Game 5 on short rest if they opt to bypass Carlos Zambrano, who is winless in two postseason starts. But after the game, Baker said Zambrano will start Sunday.
For Prior, the key moment was escaping a jam in the second. Florida had runners at first and third with none out and Prior struck out the next two hitters and got Juan Pierre to pop up.
"For me, personally, I think that was probably the most important part of the game because I think their team had built up some momentum," Prior said. "They're a scrappy team and they're a good team and to get out of the second inning with no runs, it kind of takes a little air out of their balloon, or whatever you want to say."
Chicago's Gonzalez continued his red-hot October, hitting a two-run homer in the fifth and a solo shot in the sixth. He now has four postseason home runs in his last three games -- and this from a guy who hit just three in 23 games in September.
"It's a good time to be hitting the ball well," Gonzalez said. "They always say the time to get your bat going is the postseason."
So is he Mr. October?
"It's been going really well so far," Gonzalez said. "I love the excitement. I love crucial situations. I tend to lift my concentration up and it just happens automatically. In my past couple years, especially here in Chicago, I've been able to come through in crucial times in certain games. Carrying that into the postseason really helps me."
The Cubs haven't been to the postseason enough to know that. Gonzalez is the first Cub to hit two homers in an LCS game since Gary Matthews did so in 1984.
Ramirez hit a solo homer and Simon had three hits, including a two-run single for the Cubs. Lofton had four hits -- the last Cub to do that in the postseason was Stan Hack in Game 6 of the 1945 World Series.
Chicago didn't waste any time, loading the bases with two out in the first against starter Brad Penny (0-1) on a single by Mark Grudzielanek and walks to Sosa and Moises Alou. Simon then singled to left, driving in a pair.
Paul Bako reached on an infield single to open the Cubs second and scored one out later on Lofton's single over Florida's leaping shortstop, Alex Gonzalez. One out later, Sosa launched his home run to open a 5-0 lead.
Sellout crowds of 60,000 are expected at Pro Player Stadium this weekend. The Cubs had nearly that many if you count the folks on the brownstone rooftops or in the streets around Wrigley Field.
"I didn't realize how many thousands of people were outside the ballpark," Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger said. "It's good for us -- and good for baseball."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.