10/12/2003 9:28 PM ET
Cubs tip their caps to Beckett
MIAMI -- Well, there was that one time. You know, when they had the one-out single. That was sort of a chance. And, um, the walk. The walk was a baserunner. Kind of a chance. Oh yeah -- don't forget the foul ball!
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Josh Beckett gave the Cubs no hope at all Sunday afternoon at Pro Player Stadium, going the distance in a 4-0 win. No Chicago player reached second base, and only three Cubs reached first base. At times in this postseason, missed opportunities have been the story for the Cubs on offense. On Sunday, there were no opportunities.
An offense that had banged out 33 runs in four games was kept off the scoreboard. It was kept out of scoring position. And it was largely because of Beckett's absolutely masterful performance. Afterward, there was nothing for the boys in blue to do but tip their caps and head home for Game 6 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. And there was a lot of cap-tipping in the visiting clubhouse on Sunday afternoon.
"He did a great job," said Sammy Sosa, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three infield grounders. "That's why he stopped our team. When you see a competitor like that you got to tip your hat and go get him next time."
Fewest hits allowed in shutouts in LCS history:
Jon Matlack, NY vs. CIN, 1973
Josh Beckett, FLA vs. CHI, 2003
Bob Forsch, STL vs. ATL, 1982
Dave Dravecky, SF vs. STL, 1987
Kevin Brown, SD vs. ATL, 1998
Mike Hampton, NY vs. STL, 2000
Randy Johnson, ARI vs. ATL, 2001
Roger Clemens, NY vs. SEA, 2000
Vida Blue, OAK vs. BAL, 1974
Dave McNally, BAL vs. MIN, 1969
Blue Moon Odom, OAK vs. DET, 1972
Even the guys who did a little something against Beckett were doing some doffing.
"He was throwing a lot of fastballs today and getting ahead in the count, which I thought was the key in the ballgame." said Alex Gonzalez, who had a two-out single to right field in the fifth to break up Beckett's no-hit bid. "He was throwing up in the upper 90s. He did a good job today. Tip your hat."
The Cubs lit Beckett up in the series opener at Wrigley, but that was a different environment. In fact, each of the previous four games provided a one advantage or another for Chicago's hitters.
In Games 1 and 2, Wrigley played like the hitters' park it often is in the summer. Mild temperatures and a breeze blowing out to center meant balls jumped out of the little yard. In the third and fourth contests, here at cavernous Pro Player, the Marlins trotted out left-handed pitchers, which the Cubs have feasted on all year.
Sunday was decidedly different. The combination of a nasty right-hander on his game and a big ballpark was just too much. Actually, scratch that -- the enormous outfield was barely a factor, as Beckett's outfielders made three putouts. Eleven strikeouts, 11 groundouts, two popups to third base and three fly balls to the outfield. That was the story.
"He got ahead of us early, a lot of the guys, and then he started throwing that curveball and his change," said Mark Grudzielanek, who went 0-for-4. "I think that was the key. He mixed it up, didn't just come at you in obvious counts. He threw very well tonight."
The Cubs couldn't even agree entirely on what Beckett was doing so successfully. They just agreed that he was downright nasty.
The shadows of a 4:40 p.m. ET start didn't help any, either.
"It was tough to pick it up," said Kenny Lofton. "A guy throwing that good, and it's tough to see. But no excuses. He threw the ball well today."
The closest thing to a run for the Cubs ended up in a strikeout. After a lengthy battle with Beckett to lead off the fifth, Aramis Ramirez pummeled a pitch down the left-field line that landed just outside the foul pole. It was easily the hardest-hit ball of the day.
On the next pitch, Ramirez went down swinging. It was just that kind of day.
"Coulda, shoulda, woulda," said Kenny Lofton, when asked if a home run for Ramirez might have turned things around.
The simple truth is, it probably would not have. There was no touching Beckett on Sunday, even for a team that had been averaging eight runs a game against Florida's pitching staff.
"We didn't really have much of an opportunity today," Grudzielanek said. "It was really a tough game, and he wanted it. We battled, and we couldn't get (anything) really going."
Even the guys watching from the bench had no choice but to lift their headwear.
"You sit there as an opposing pitcher and you tip your hat to (him)," said Matt Clement, the winning pitcher for Chicago in Game 4. "(He) did a good job. I don't think it was our guys struggling as much as he pitched good today."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.