Ninth-inning heroics upstaged in 11th

Updated: October 8, 2003, 1:37 AM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa's dramatic game-tying homer sent Wrigley Field into a tizzy and momentarily rescued the Chicago Cubs.

But the power generated from Sosa's first postseason homer wasn't enough Tuesday night in the opening game of the NLCS.

Mark Guthrie gave up a go-ahead homer to Mike Lowell in the 11th inning, and the Cubs -- bidding for their first World Series appearance since 1945 -- were left to absorb a tough 9-8 loss.

"It was full of emotional twists," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "I'm sure everybody is emotionally exhausted at this point."

Sosa was 0-for-4 Tuesday and 3-for-20 this postseason when he connected to deep left off Marlins closer Ugueth Urbina with one on and two outs in the ninth. Sosa knew where it was headed, immediately doing his hip-hop as he left the batter's box.

"Coming through with two outs, everybody was ready to go home," Sosa said.

When Sosa returned to right field, the bleacher fans he salutes before every game were more raucous than ever, bowing and cheering as he took his position.

"I stayed to calm and tried to be patient and wait for the mistake," Sosa said. "It was great to come back and help the club."

But the glee ended quickly.

In the 11th, Baker went to Guthrie, a left-hander who had given up a two-run homer Saturday to Atlanta's Chipper Jones in Game 4 of the opening-round series. Lowell's long drive to center quickly quieted the crowd of 39,567.

The Cubs were upset by a call in the ninth on a potential double play grounder that was bobbled by second baseman Mark Grudzielanek. It opened the way for the Marlins to score twice on Ivan Rodriguez's two-run single.

Grudzielanek fielded the ball and tagged Juan Pierre in the basepath before relaying to first. But second base umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled that Grudzielanek didn't have control of the ball as he tagged Pierre, who was ruled safe at second. The throw to first was too late to get Luis Castillo, prompting an argument from Baker.

"I know I had control of it, then I bobbled it," Grudzielanek said. "I was trying to get the double play or the out. I was probably too aggressive. I was just mad at myself for not getting the out."

Baker even asked the umpires to put their heads together.

"I was told that he didn't have control of the ball. I thought he had control of the ball and bobbled it on the transfer, trying to throw it to first base," Baker said. "And all the umpires, I asked them to confer with each other and naturally they all agreed on the original call."

The Cubs homered three times. Chicago's Alex Gonzalez tied the game with a two-run homer in the sixth.

Gonzalez drove a pitch from Josh Beckett just over the fence in right to tie it at 6 and recharge a crowd that had become eerily silent after the Marlins had wiped out a 4-0 first-inning deficit.

"Despite the way we started, they just kept coming back, coming back. That's why they are here in the second round," Sosa said. "They have a lot of heart for a young team."

With 4-year-old Darren Baker bumping fists with the players as they were introduced, Wrigley Field began to rock before the first pitch.

The Cubs had two triples, a double and two-run homer from Moises Alou in the first to take a 4-0 lead that starter Carlos Zambrano couldn't hold.

"I don't think in a seven-game series one game is going to set the tone," said Alou, who starred for the Marlins by hitting three homers when they won the 1997 World Series. "It would have been nice to win the first game, but it's a long series and we have a good team and I'm really confident."

Zambrano, who gave up only nine homers in 214 innings during the regular season -- one every 23.8 innings -- looked like he was throwing BP in the third inning.

He was rocked for three homers in a span of 13 pitches as Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera and Juan Encarnacion connected. He's the first pitcher in NLCS history to give up three homers in the same inning.

"Actually, I didn't feel anything. I don't feel nervous. I don't feel scared. I feel normal," Zambrano said. "I think I will get another start. I will do a better job."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press