10/12/2003 4:32 PM ET
Notes: All-Star outcome looms
Fans, players missing Santo, wish him well
MIAMI -- Who would've guessed that a move by Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker in the All-Star Game in July could affect him this October?
Baker was the National League manager in the All-Star Game and his team lost to the American League team, 7-6, on Hank Blalock's two-run homer in the eighth inning. Blalock's homer came off Los Angeles closer Eric Gagne. It was Gagne's only blown save of the season.
"How it ended is not exactly how I wished for the National League," Baker said at the time. "But it is what it is. And these guys are playing hard no matter what was at stake."
What was at stake was home-field advantage in the World Series. The best-of-seven series will open at the American League city. If the Chicago Cubs advance, they would play Games 3, 4 and 5 at Wrigley Field.
"It came to my mind one time," Baker said Sunday before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. "When that's the only blown save of the year, you aren't supposed to win."
Baker was criticized after the All-Star Game for the way he used his bench. He shrugs that off.
"If I'm behind one run, I'd rather have speed than a power hitter," he said. "There's a whole bunch of ways speed can score a run or two. Power hitter, there's only one way -- out of the park. We weren't supposed to win that [All-Star Game]."
Speed has played a big part in the NLCS. Cubs leadoff man Kenny Lofton has hit safely in his last five NLCS games and scored seven runs. Plus, the Cubs have kept the Florida Marlins' two speedsters, Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo, off the bases.
"With speed, when I'm behind, they can bunt, they can chop, they can walk," Baker said. "A pitcher isn't going to walk him and they're overly careful so they walk him every time. Like Juan Pierre the other night -- are you more afraid of Juan Pierre with a bunt or a power hitter hitting the ball out of the park? Like that Rolaids commercial with Rickey [Henderson]. I haven't seen a Rolaids commercial with Barry [Bonds]."
Hot stuff: Baker has been waiting for the Cubs to put together a hot streak all season. They entered Sunday's game batting .299 as a team.
"If you hang around long enough, you're going to get hot sooner or later," Baker said. "Similar to last year [with the Giants in the playoffs], we got hot at the right time. It wasn't by design. It's just through hard work and determination and sometimes it's supposed to happen."
However, the Cubs were blanked, 4-0, Sunday by Florida's Josh Beckett to drop the team average to .263.
Home turf: They'll be dancing in the streets of Wrigleyville if the Cubs clinch the NL pennant. Wouldn't the team rather win at home?
"I think after  years, they shouldn't care where we clinch it," Baker said Sunday. "You clinch it where you can clinch it. And I've been in both dugouts. It's not over until it's over, like Yogi [Berra] says. And a team that's up, you've got to go for the jugular. You've got to go for the throat. A team that's down, which I've been over there, too, you know that you've got to leave it all on the field that day because if you don't, that day could be your last day."
Cubs pitcher Mark Prior knows Wrigley Field will be rocking Tuesday in Game 6 of the NLCS.
"Our fans have been great, coming out and supporting us," Prior said. "Even the fans that can't get into the game, they're around the stadium and keeping the energy up."
The Chicagoans who flew to Florida for this weekend series have made their presence known.
"Our fans -- the 5,000 to 10,000 that are here -- have been drowning out their 50,000," Prior said. "That's been helpful while we've been here and in Atlanta."
Prior knew Cubs fans were different when he attended his first Cubs Convention and there were 15,000 people in a ballroom in January with three inches of snow on the ground.
"It would be a big thing for them, it would be huge for the city and for all the fans who have supported them throughout the year," Prior said. "Hopefully, the city, whatever the outcome, can say, 'Hey, 2003 was a good year.'"
Facts and figures: Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez of the Cubs both have had two-homer games in the NLCS. For the record, the most homers by a player in a single NLCS game is three, held by Pittsburgh's Bob Robertson on Oct. 3, 1971.
First things first: The Cubs have outscored their opponents 14-1 in the first inning in the postseason, including 11-0 in the NLCS. A lot of that has to do with Lofton.
He was batting .500 through four games in the NLCS with a .571 on-base percentage. Lofton has scored seven runs in the NLCS to tie a Cubs club record for runs scored in a single series. In 1945, Phil Cavaretta scored seven in the World Series against Detroit. Lofton needs one more run to tie an NLCS record for most in a series. San Francisco's Will Clark (1989), New York's Timo Perez (2000) and Atlanta's Javy Lopez (1996) each scored eight runs.
"He got here right in the nick of time," Baker said of Lofton, acquired in July from Pittsburgh.
Wish you were here: The hundreds of Cubs fans who hung around the visitor's dugout Saturday night at Pro Player Stadium started chanting "Santo, Santo." It was a salute to Ron Santo, the former Cubs third baseman and current WGN Radio color commentator who is home in Arizona preparing for surgery. He has bladder cancer and the operation has been postponed.
"I want to say I wish Ron Santo was here," Cubs pitcher Matt Clement said after his win Saturday night. "I've been praying for him and this is what his life is all about, Cubs baseball. I just wanted to say hello to him. He's been real supportive of me and my career since I've become a Cub."
Looking ahead: Tuesday's forecast for Game 6 calls for daytime temps in the mid 60s with scattered thunderstorms. Wednesday would be nice. You probably have to put the shorts and sandals away until Spring Training.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com