Florida's fish fight back against Cubs

Posted: Monday, October 13, 2003

MIAMI Josh Beckett and the Florida Marlins put history on hold at least for a couple of days.

With the Chicago Cubs set to clinch their first World Series trip in 58 years, Beckett buzzed Sammy Sosa in pitching a two-hitter and leading the Marlins to a 4-0 win Sunday in Game 5 of the NL championship series.

Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Lowell and Jeff Conine homered and the Marlins played the role of ultimate spoiler at least to thousands of Cubs fans at Pro Player Stadium and millions nationwide in closing their gap to 3-2 and sending the series back to Wrigley Field.

Even with nearly a century of failure in their past, the Cubs are not about to panic. At least not yet.

Mark Prior is set to start in Game 6 Tuesday night. If he's needed, fellow ace Kerry Wood would pitch Game 7 the next day as Chicago tries to reach the Series for the first time since 1945.

The Cubs already had made arrangements with the Marlins to use champagne chilling in the Florida clubhouse for a celebration, if necessary. It wasn't.

Instead, Florida had its bags packed for Chicago well before the game began. And the Marlins looked for any edge to prolong the season, as evidenced by their Sunday morning chapel service at the stadium.

''It was a little more motivational than usual and we had a lot more people there,'' team chaplain Chris Lane said.

Not that the Marlins needed any extra help, not with Beckett on the mound.

At 23, the hard-throwing righty pitched the best game of his young career, striking out 11 and allowing only two singles and a walk. He shut down a Cubs team that had totaled 33 runs in the first four games of the series.

A night earlier, the Cubs romped 8-3 and roughed up Dontrelle Willis. Having been run out of his own ballpark, the lively rookie was jogging around the stadium early Sunday, virtually unnoticed by fans in the parking lots. He had a big smile, and so did everyone else wearing teal-and-black a few hours later.

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