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Cubs pitcher gives up seven runs

CHICAGO -- Kerry Wood trudged off the mound with his head
down, flipping his glove into the stands as he hit the dugout
steps.

In the biggest start of his life Wednesday night, the Chicago
Cubs' ace couldn't pitch his team into the World Series.

The Florida Marlins got seven hits and seven runs off Wood in 5
2/3 innings, and they went on to a 9-6 victory to win the NL
championship series after trailing three games to one.

"I felt I let the team down, the organization down and the city
of Chicago down," Wood said. "I choked."

Where did it go wrong for the Cubs? First, Florida's Josh Beckett shut them out in Game 5.

No sweat, the Cubs figured, not with aces Mark Prior and Wood
available for Games 6 and 7. The Cubs' 20-something duo hadn't lost
on back-to-back days all season.

"I said coming home here if they beat my two best, Wood and
Prior, then they deserve to go," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

"And that's what they did. They beat two of the best in the
business."

The Cubs were just five outs away from the World Series with
Prior pitching Tuesday night when they let a 3-0 lead slip away in
Game 6.

The Marlins -- with the aid of a souvenir-seeking fan who got in
Moises Alou's way as he went after a foul fly -- rallied for eight
runs, delivering a crushing defeat.

OK, but now the Marlins would have to deal with major league
strikeout leader Wood, who became famous in his fifth major league
start in 1998 when he struck out 20 Houston Astros.

The Cubs have counted on Wood for big games all season. He kept
Roger Clemens stuck on career victory No. 299 when the New York
Yankees visited Wrigley in June. 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 on this night he didn't have his best stuff and his outing
was his shortest since Aug. 21.

After he'd given up a three-run homer to Miguel Cabrera in the
first, Wood used his bat to get the Cubs back in the game.

His two-run homer had Wrigley Field shaking with excitement. He
was the first NLCS pitcher to homer since Chicago's Rick Sutcliffe
in 1984 against the Padres.

But after Alou put the Cubs ahead 5-3 with a two-run homer, Wood
couldn't hold off the pesky Marlins. Two walks in the fifth started
Florida's three-run rally and put the Marlins ahead to stay.

"He was still throwing the ball well. I mean it hurt, the two
walks that started that inning," Baker said.

It marked just the second Game 7 appearance ever for the Cubs,
and this one ended like the other. In 1945, in their last World
Series appearance, the Cubs lost the final game to the Detroit
Tigers.

"Was it disappointing? Yes, it's disappointing because we
wanted to go to the World Series," Baker said.

"Any lead wasn't a safe lead. They played better than us,"
said Alou, who starred on Florida's 1997 World Series winner.

Wood's night did not start well. Juan Pierre drove a ball into
the right-field corner to start the game and made it to third when
Sammy Sosa slipped as he tried to retrieve it.

Wood bounced several pitches in the dirt in the opening inning,
with catcher Damian Miller making two nice stops to keep Pierre at
third.

But after Ivan Rodriguez worked a walk in a nine-pitch at-bat,
Cabrera drove a three-run homer to left-center and the crowd was
silenced.

"They hit the ball. They put the ball in play and made
something happen," Wood said.

"We were down 3-0 and came back from that and then gave it up
late. They didn't give up when they got down by two runs."