10/09/2003 1:53 AM ET
Hit parade in full swing for Cubs
Chicago has 20 runs and 27 hits through two games
CHICAGO -- The series is tied. Advantage, Cubs.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The Small Bears from the North Side throttled the Fightin' Fish, 12-3, on Wednesday night, 24 hours after dropping an extra-inning heartbreaker in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
Each team has one win, and the Marlins have home field, but if momentum is tomorrow's -- or rather, Friday's -- starting pitcher, then Chicago has Mighty Mo. Kerry Wood duels with Mark Redman in Game 3 at Pro Player Stadium.
Maybe more important, though, is that the Cubs' bats have pounded the Marlins' two best starting pitchers in the first two games. Against Josh Beckett and Brad Penny, both of whom are arguably tougher than anyone Atlanta used in the Division Series, Chicago pounded and pounded and pounded until the guys in the gray pants all but cried, "Uncle."
"Our guys are feeling good," said Cubs manager Dusty Baker. "Sooner or later your offense is going to get together. I'm not surprised. We haven't had a real hot streak hitting-wise all year long."
The scene now shifts to a much tougher place to hit, it's true. However, with a lefty going for Florida in Game 3, and either another lefty or a right-hander on short rest in Game 4, this downright bizarre offensive eruption could continue when the series heads down south. Nearly all of the Cubs' key hitters -- Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez -- are right-handed.
And with even shortstop Alex Gonzalez pitching in, it's starting to get scary for the Marlins' staff. Gonzalez (8), as he's referred to in the box scores to differentiate him from Florida's Alex Gonzalez, has three homers in the series first two games. He ripped two on Wednesday, becoming the second Cub in history to do so.
All anyone wanted to talk about afterward was Sosa's 495-foot moonshot, but who could blame them?
"(That was) a lot farther than the ones I hit," Gonzalez said. "Two of mine probably equaled the one of his."
This Cubs team is all about starting pitching. They just hit enough to make winners of Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement. At least, that was the case. Now, they're knocking the holy heck out of the ball. It's as though they swiped the Braves' bats when they were down in Atlanta on Sunday.
And it's all the way up and down the lineup. Kenny Lofton had four hits on Wednesday. Mark Grudzielanek singled and doubled. The big guys in the middle did their thing, and Gonzalez and Paul Bako came up with big hits at the bottom of the order.
All this against Beckett and Penny, no less.
"They're power pitchers, so they tend to come at you and you just have to stay ready as a hitter," Gonzalez said. "They've got some hard throwers out there, throwing in the mid 90s, which is no walk in the park when you go up to the plate. So you just have to make the adjustments as they do."
Strangely, it's Florida's pitchers who will have to adjust to Chicago's hitters. Pro Player Stadium may provide a huge home-field advantage -- more than 60,000 fans' worth -- but the Marlins' pitchers still have to get outs.
"Let's put it this way," Sosa said Wednesday night. "The way we started (Tuesday), it should be in our favor. We made so many mistakes yesterday, we left so many pitches right there at the plate. And to have a chance, especially the way that they were yesterday, we started right away swinging the bat pretty good.
"We're going there to Miami, and we have our horses going Friday. Kerry Wood has been unbelievable lately. And winning today, that makes us feel more comfortable and exciting. And Friday will be unbelievable, because we've got Kerry, and we're going over there to take care of business."
On offense, no less.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.