10/14/2003 11:08 PM ET
Crazy eighth forces Game 7
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Game 6 wrapup: Marlins 8, Cubs 3
CHICAGO -- Hold onto that 58-year-old rally cap, Cubs fans. You'll need it one more day.
The Cubs, just five outs from their first World Series berth since 1945, allowed eight runs in a wild and wacky eighth inning Tuesday as the Marlins rallied to take Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, 8-3, at Wrigley Field and force a decisive Game 7.
The Cubs' chances of getting to the World Series now depend on Kerry Wood, who will start Wednesday night against Florida's Mark Redman. Of the four teams that have rallied to force a Game 7 after trailing 3 games to 1, three have gone on to win Game 7 and take the series.
With Mark Prior cruising and the Cubs leading, 3-0, Juan Pierre hit a one-out double in the eighth. Luis Castillo then hit a foul ball on the edge of the seats down the left-field line. Moises Alou reached up to make the catch, but several fans reached for the ball and one knocked it away just inches from Alou's glove.
"Fans, they don't go to school to be taught what balls to touch and what balls not to touch," said Alou, who was upset at the souvenir-seeking fans. "Things like that happen."
"I thought we had Castillo out," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We didn't have fan interference because [the umpires] can't call it because the ball wasn't on the field of play."
Rich Rieker, the umpire supervisor, said, "That ball was actually in the stands. The fielder goes in at his own risk. In this case, the fan did not reach out."
Castillo, given new life, walked, with Pierre advancing to third when ball four got away from catcher Paul Bako. Prior got ahead of Ivan Rodriguez, 0-2, but then allowed the Marlins catcher to hit a sharp single that scored Pierre and cut the lead to 3-1. With runners now on first and second, Miguel Cabrera hit what appeared to be a routine double-play ball to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, but Gonzalez muffed the play to load the bases.
"For whatever reason, I didn't catch the ball," Gonzalez said. "It seemed like the spin on the ball ate me up. I didn't think it could get to me that fast."
"We had Pudge 0-2 and then he gets a hit," Baker said. "And then we thought we had a ground-ball double play because Gonzo, he's only made 10 errors all year long -- that's the stunning part, because he doesn't miss anything. Then after that, we couldn't stop the bleeding."
Derrek Lee followed with a two-run double to tie the game at 3 and bounce Prior from the game. The 23-year-old right-hander, who had seemed invincible, gave up five runs -- three earned -- on six hits over 7 1/3 innings.
Kyle Farnsworth came on and intentionally walked Mike Lowell to load the bases. Jeff Conine's sacrifice fly gave Florida a 4-3 edge. Todd Hollandsworth was given a free pass to load the bases again and Mike Mordecai came through with a three-run double off the left-field wall.
Farnsworth was pulled for Mike Remlinger, who gave up an RBI single to Pierre in his second at-bat of the inning.
Prior didn't fault anybody.
"You can't blame the entire game on that play [with Alou]," Prior said. "Hopefully people don't treat the guy too bad. Ninety-nine percent of the people in that situation would do the same thing."
And the Gonzalez play?
"My defense over the year has made great plays for me," Prior said. "The ball kicked up on him. I'm not going to fault Gonzo. That didn't cost us the game, either. We didn't execute in the eighth inning. Now we find ourselves going to Game 7."
The Cubs have now lost two straight games in their bid to get to the World Series for the first time since 1945. The Cubs haven't won the championship since 1908.
"It has nothing to do with the curse," Baker said. "It has to do with the fan interference, the very uncharacteristic error by Gonzo, because he doesn't miss anything. And then they just started hitting. It has nothing to do with the curse, it has to do with their bats.
"History had nothing to do with this game, nothing."
The 2,500 Chicago police officers on duty inside and outside Wrigley Field to keep revelers under control will get overtime pay. They'll play one more day.
"Game 7. That's all I can say. Game 7. That's it," Cubs center fielder Kenny Lofton said. "Got to win tomorrow. Game 7. Final. Bottom line. All the stuff that happened today doesn't matter."
Only three teams in LCS history have advanced to the World Series after trailing 3-1. The only National League team to do so was the 1996 Atlanta Braves who rallied against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"The bottom line is you have to play the game," Remlinger said. "To be the best team you have to play the best nine innings. Whoever plays the best nine will go to the World Series."
The ivy on Wrigley Field's outfield walls was tinged with red, the game-time temperature was a brisk 57 degrees and the 39,577 buzzed fans were bundled up. It was definitely October baseball.
The Cubs had outscored the Marlins 11-0 in the first inning in the first five games of the series. Make that 12-0. Lofton singled to lead off, advanced on Mark Grudzielanek's sacrifice and tallied on Sammy Sosa's double.
Lofton tied an NLCS record for most singles in a series with the hit, his ninth single, and matched the NLCS record for most runs with eight.
Sosa and Alou singled to open the sixth but Aramis Ramirez grounded into a double play. Florida's Carl Pavano, who was making his first postseason start, then exited, and rookie Dontrelle Willis walked pinch-hitter Eric Karros with Sosa scurrying home on a wild pitch on ball four.
Chicago added a run in the seventh when Grudzielanek snapped an 0-for-15 skid with a two-out RBI single, scoring Bako, who had singled to lead off.
This will be the sixth Game 7 in NLCS history and the first since 1996.
It was exactly 95 years ago on this date, Oct. 14, that the Cubs won the 1908 World Series. They've got one more game to try to get there. Remlinger had a message for Cub fans.
"Just believe in us," Remlinger said. "I never said this will be easy."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
"Just believe in us. I never said this will be easy."
-- Mike Remlinger