Marlins Win to Advance to World Series
CHICAGO – Given one final chance to beat the demons of their past and the Marlins, the Cubs couldn’t get it done. Kerry Wood failed to hold an early lead and Wrigley Field fell silent as Florida capped its stunning NLCS comeback with a 9-6 win in Game 7 Wednesday night.
Destiny? Fate? The fan in Game 6? Whatever. The Cubs were unable to end their long, strange drought because Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera and these remarkably resilient Marlins won their third straight game to clinch the National League pennant.
Now, the Marlins will head off to face Boston or the New York Yankees in the World Series starting Saturday night. In a cruel twist to the Cubs’ faithful, Florida will make its second Series trip in only 11 years of existence ó Chicago has been absent since 1945, prompting the team’s sad little motto of “Wait ’til next year.”
Alex Gonzalez provided insurance with a two-run double to left-center field in the seventh inning for a 9-5 lead. The ball hopped up against the brick wall, covered with ivy that has changed colors to orange and red.
That poison ivy will certainly be tinged with tears, too.
Even after being shut out in Game 5 by Josh Beckett, the Cubs were in excellent position as they returned home. But aces Mark Prior and Wood lost on back-to-back days for the first time this season and suddenly a sure thing had turned sour.
A sellout crowd of 39,574 minus the infamous Steve Bartman ó the fan who deflected a foul ball during the Marlins’ eighth-inning rally in Game 6, he was at home with a police guard ó had the old ballpark shaking as Wood and Moises Alou homered for a 5-3 lead.
But Wood could only flip his glove into the stands as the wild-card Marlins rallied for three runs in the fifth. Luis Castillo added an RBI single in the sixth and Gonzalez hit a two-run double in the seventh for insurance.
Brad Penny won with an inning of scoreless relief for Mark Redman.
Beckett came out of the bullpen and pitched four innings of one-hit ball on two days’ rest, allowing only a homer by pinch-hitter Troy O’Leary. Ugueth Urbina worked the ninth for a save.
Home teams had won 12 of the last 13 times a postseason series went to Game 7. But the Marlins became just the sixth team to ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series.
Florida has never lost a postseason series in its young history, going 4-0. That includes a thrilling Game 7 victory in 11 innings over Cleveland for the 1997 title.
This win sent 72-year-old manager Jack McKeon and the Marlins into the Series, something that seemed almost impossible when they were 19-29 back in late May. But McKeon, who had replaced the fired Jeff Torborg earlier in the month, somehow steered them deep into October.
Cabrera and Rodriguez once again played starring roles for Florida. Cabrera, a 20-year-old rookie, hit his third homer of the series while Rodriguez singled home a run that gave him an NLCS-record 10 RBIs.
Down 5-3 in the fifth, Rodriguez doubled home a run and Cabrera tied it with an RBI grounder. Derrek Lee, whose double keyed the eight-run rally in Game 6, followed with a single that put Florida ahead 6-5.
The Cubs had been hoping this would be the year they got a chance to win their first Series championship since 1908.
Instead, add this failure to all of their previous disappointments. That includes wasting a 2-0 lead over San Diego in the best-of-five NLCS, blowing a late lead in the 1969 NL race and losing Game 7 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field to Detroit.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker was trying to become the first manager in history to lead two different teams to the World Series in consecutive years. Rather, he fell short, just as he did last year when his San Francisco Giants lost the last two games of the World Series at Anaheim.
Marlins Win to Advance to World Series