Cubs Take 5-3 Lead in Game 7 of NLCS
CHICAGO (AP) _ Kerry Wood and Moises Alou were doing their best to keep Chicago’s World Series hopes alive. Wood tied the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the second, and Alou added a two-run shot the next inning as Chicago took a 5-3 lead in Game 7 of the NL championship series Wednesday night.
Chicago, trying to advance to its first World Series since 1945, took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. But they dropped the next two games, including a stunning collapse Tuesday night. Getting some help from an overzealous fan and a rare error by Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez, Florida scored eight runs in the eighth inning to win the game.
Only one other NL team has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the pennant, but Florida looked poised to continue its improbable run Wednesday as Miguel Cabrera tagged Wood for a three-run homer in the first inning. Wrigley Field, so raucous only seconds early, fell eerily silent.
But Wood has picked the Cubs up in big games all year, and this was no different.
With one out in the second, Eric Karros singled and Gonzalez doubled to deep center. Damian Miller drove in a run with a groundout, cutting Florida’s lead to 3-1.
That brought up Wood, who had sealed his own victory in Game 1 of the division series against Atlanta with a two-run double. He went one better this time, sending Mark Redman’s 3-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers.
It was the fourth home run by a pitcher in the NLCS, and first since Chicago’s Rick Sutcliffe in Game 1 of the 1984 series against San Diego. It was the seventh homer of Wood’s career and he has five RBIs in the postseason.
The home run set off pandemonium in the stands, and the venerable stadium was shaking as Cubs fans jumped up and down, screamed and traded high-fives. One fan on his way back to his seat from the concession stand even set down his two beers so he could hug the closest person to him, a security guard.
Wood’s teammates lined up to congratulate him in the dugout, and the stadium echoed with chants of ``Ker-ry! Ker-ry!″ Wood didn’t come out for a curtain call, but he was serenaded again when he took the mound in the third.
And Cubs fans had barely settled back into their seats when Alou put Chicago ahead. After Sammy Sosa was hit by a pitch, Alou hit a monster shot to left that was last seen bouncing into the crowd on Waveland Avenue.
It was Alou’s second home run this postseason, and the fifth of his career.
Wood seems to thrive in big games. He kept Roger Clemens stuck on career victory No. 299 when the New York Yankees visited Wrigley in June for the first time since the 1938 World Series. And in Game 5 of the division series against Atlanta, Wood held the NL’s top-hitting team to one run as the Cubs won their first postseason series since the 1908 World Series.
But he got off to a shaky start Wednesday. He needed 33 pitches to get out of the first inning, and skipped at least five pitches in the dirt.
Marlins leadoff hitter Juan Pierre fell behind 1-2 in the first, but he hit a fly to right that Sosa had to dig out of the ivy as the speedster took third. Ivan Rodriguez then worked Wood for a nine-pitch walk.
Cabrera followed with an arcing homer to left-center on a 1-2 pitch. It was the first time the Marlins had scored in the first inning in the NLCS, having been outscored 12-0 in the opening inning over the first six games.
It was Cabrera’s third home run in the series, an LCS record for a rookie. No rookie had hit more than one homer in an LCS before.