Red Sox, Cubs notch big LCS wins

Posted: Thursday, October 09, 2003

NEW YORK Tim Wakefield left the New York Yankees cursing his knuckleball, while David Ortiz, Todd Walker and Manny Ramirez left them marveling at their power.

For all the ''Star Wars'' imagery and talk of good versus evil, Game 1 of the AL championship series was decided by Wakefield's darting knuckler and Boston's overpowering bats.

''Our offense came through. It's unbelievable,'' Wakefield said Wednesday night after the Red Sox put aside fatigue and opened with a 5-2 victory.

Ortiz started Boston off with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and Walker and Ramirez added solo shots in the fifth off a shaky Mike Mussina.

Wakefield befuddled New York's batters, taking a five-run lead into the seventh before he got wild and three relievers from Boston's beleaguered bullpen completed the three-hitter.

''He had a good one,'' Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. ''Nobody knew where it was going.''

All the chants and signs reminding Boston of its 85-year title drought only seemed to spur on the Red Sox against their old rivals, who have dominated their Northeast neighbors for decades.

After traveling from Boston to Oakland on Sunday night, then winning Game 5 on Monday night and flying back across the country, the Red Sox seemed bleary-eyed when they arrived at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. But when it came time to play, they had the energy and emotion, not New York, which had been off since winning its first-round series at Minnesota on Sunday.

Wakefield, who retired 14 straight batters starting in the second, said he was going on adrenaline.

''I told all my friends don't call me because I'm going to be sleeping in,'' he said.

Ever since December, when Boston president Larry Lucchino called the Yankees the ''Evil Empire,'' the Red Sox have played off imagery from ''Star Wars,'' painting themselves as white knights trying to knock off the 26-time World Series champions.

Following their stunning comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the Athletics, Lucchino even predicted the Red Sox, who haven't won the Series since trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 supposedly bringing on The Curse would have The Force on their side.

Yankees fans kept reminding the Red Sox of their title drought, taunting them by screaming ''1918,'' but it just seemed to fuel the Red Sox, who showed force at the plate and rapped out 13 hits, including four by Ramirez, who grew up close to Yankee Stadium.

Derek Lowe tries to make it 2-0 Thursday night when he pitches Game 2 of the best-of-seven series against New York's Andy Pettitte.

''Out pitching is our strength and, hopefully tomorrow, Andy will get us back even,'' New York manager Joe Torre said. ''We put him in that situation many times and he's come up big for us.''

Cubs 12, Marlins 3

CHICAGO Once the ball flew off Sammy Sosa's bat and soared toward the juniper bushes in dead center field, there was no telling how far it might go.

And if he keeps hitting like this, there's no telling how far he might take these Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs put on a startling display of raw power at the plate and on the mound Wednesday night, and behind Mark Prior overwhelmed the Florida Marlins 12-3 to even the NL championship series after two games.

Alex Gonzalez homered twice and Aramis Ramirez also connected for the Cubs. But once again, Sosa woke up Wrigley Field.

''This is the prime time to do it,'' Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. ''He really hasn't had a hot streak all year. It seems when he does, he hits a home run every at-bat.

''I'm hoping it's on the way. Boy, it's coming right on time,'' he said.

A day after he tied the game with a two-out, two-run shot in the ninth for his first postseason home run, Sosa hit a two-run drive in the second inning that went even farther.

Sosa launched a 495-foot shot that cleared the ivy-covered wall, sailed over the shrubbery that serves as a batter's backdrop and threatened to fly completely out of the park. Only a television camera booth kept the ball from becoming a street souvenir.

Teammate Kenny Lofton, who was on third base, shuddered as he watched it go. Marlins center fielder Juan Pierre didn't even bother to move.

''He hit that a mile. He can do that every once in a while,'' Gonzalez said.

Coming off his two-hit gem in the opening round against Atlanta, Prior was good enough. Of course, being handed an 11-0 lead after five innings helped the 23-year-old keep his composure.

''We fell behind too early. When you're down 8-0 in the third inning, you're in trouble,'' Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.

Asked whether he had rethought his strategy about pitching to Sosa, McKeon bucked up.

''Did he beat us? Enough said,'' he said.

Now, the best-of-seven series shifts to Pro Player Stadium for Game 3 Friday night. While the Marlins are one of baseball's best home teams, the Cubs must like their chances with Kerry Wood pitching against Mark Redman.

Wood pitched a two-hitter and a three-hitter against the Marlins this year, striking out a total of 20, and is 4-0 against them lifetime.

Following the Marlins' 9-8, 11-inning win in the opener when the teams combined for an NLCS-record 17 extra-base hits, hitters again wore out the gaps and corners.

This time, the big hits went in Chicago's favor and so did the little ones. Lofton tied an NLCS mark with four hits, all singles.

Prior cruised until the sixth, when Derrek Lee and rookie Miguel Cabrera led off with consecutive home runs that made it 11-2.

Despite the big lead, the sellout crowd of 39,562 was well aware of how resilient the Marlins are. In fact, all four of their wins in this postseason have been comeback victories.

But before anyone could get too worried, the Cubs put any notion of a remarkable rally to rest. Left fielder Moises Alou ran back toward the wall to catch a long drive by pinch-hitter Mike Lowell, and the relay to first caught a stumbling Jeff Conine for an inning-ending double play.

Prior left with two on and no outs in the eighth to a standing ovation, having allowed three runs. Along with shutting down the Marlins, he shook them up by hitting a foul ball that scattered the Florida relievers sitting on a bench down the right-field line.

Baker found a neat way to finish it off, too. He brought in reliever Mark Guthrie, who served up Lowell's game-winning, pinch-hit homer in the opener, for the last two outs.

While Prior was in control, Marlins starter Brad Penny was hit hard. He gave up seven runs in two-plus innings and was hooted off the mound.

Marlins reliever Michael Tejera threw the most memorable pitch, however. His mechanics got messed up in the eighth and somehow he threw the ball over Florida's first-base dugout.

The unseasonably warm weather in Chicago brought out a swarm of ladybugs all around town this week, and they supposedly bring good luck. Whatever, the fates swung in the Cubs' favor.

Marlins shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who made two sensational plays in the late innings to keep Game 1 tied, had two balls tick off his glove for early singles. Both runners wound up scoring.

Mark Grudzielanek's hit helped load the bases in the first inning and Randall Simon sweetly slapped a two-out, two-run single to left.

Lofton bounced an RBI single off Gonzalez's glove in the second and stole second. He didn't have to run nearly as hard when Sosa connected with two outs.

Prior and Penny came out zinging and even with Wrigley buzzing, the sound of fastballs popping into catcher's mitts echoed throughout the ballpark.

How hard were they throwing? Pierre tried to bunt the first pitch of the game and the ball flew off his bat and landed in foul territory beyond third base.

The radar gun clocked Prior at 94 mph and showed Penny slightly faster. Not that it was a good thing for Penny as the story goes, this season McKeon had the radar readings shut off at Pro Player when Penny pitched so he wouldn't become fixated and overthrow.

Notes: The Cubs' Gonzalez has homered in three straight playoff games. He connected in the decisive Game 5 of the division series and also homered Tuesday night. ... Andy Pafko threw out the first ball. The former outfielder was part of the Cubs' last World Series team in 1945. ... Cabrera made his major league debut at shortstop. He moved over from the third base when Lowell stayed in the game. ... Umpire crew chief Jerry Crawford, who felt ill and left the opener, has pneumonia. He was replaced by Larry Vanover for Game 2.

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