2003 National League Championship Series
|MVP:||Iván Rodríguez (Florida)|
|TV announcers:||Thom Brennaman, Steve Lyons and Al Leiter|
|Radio announcers:||Dan Shulman and Dave Campbell|
|Umpires:||Jerry Crawford (Games 1, 3–7), Chuck Meriwether, Fieldin Culbreth, Larry Vanover (Game 2), Mike Everitt, Larry Poncino, Mike Reilly|
|NLDS:||Chicago Cubs over Atlanta Braves (3–2)|
|Florida Marlins over San Francisco Giants (3–1)|
|2003 World Series|
The 2003 National League Championship Series (NLCS) was a Major League Baseball playoff series played from October 7 to 15 to determine the champion of the National League, between the Central Division champion Chicago Cubs and the wild-card qualifying Florida Marlins. The Cubs, by virtue of being a division winner, had the home field advantage. The Marlins came back from a three games to one deficit and won the series in seven games, advancing to the World Series against the New York Yankees.
The two teams were victorious in the NL Division Series (NLDS), with the Cubs defeating the East Division champion Atlanta Braves three games to two, and the Marlins defeating the West Division champion San Francisco Giants three games to one.
The series is most remembered for events that unfolded in the top of the eighth inning of Game 6. Not having won a championship since 1908, the Cubs had just taken two out of the three games in Miami, with the final two games at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Cubs also had their best two pitchers, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, slated to start the final two games. With the Cubs leading 3–0 and just five outs away from their first World Series since 1945, Steve Bartman, a fan, reached for the foul ball hit by Luis Castillo off Prior, preventing Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou from catching it. Castillo proceeded to walk and Prior and the Cubs never recovered from the incident. Aided by Castillo's walk and later an error by Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez on a potential double-play grounder, the Marlins went on to score eight runs in the inning and won the game 8–3. There were some odd events leading up to the disastrous 8th inning that many Cubs fans call bad omens of The Curse of the Billy Goat which most notably include Bernie Mac altering Take Me Out to the Ball Game from root for the Cubbies to root for the champs. The Marlins went on to win Game 7 and then to defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Chicago manager Dusty Baker, who won the NL pennant in 2002 with the San Francisco Giants, fell short in his bid to become the first manager ever to take different teams to the World Series in consecutive years.
Chicago Cubs vs. Florida Marlins
Florida won the series, 4–3.
|1||October 7||Florida Marlins – 9, Chicago Cubs – 8 (11 innings)||Wrigley Field||3:44||39,567|
|2||October 8||Florida Marlins – 3, Chicago Cubs – 12||Wrigley Field||3:02||39,562|
|3||October 10||Chicago Cubs – 5, Florida Marlins – 4 (11 innings)||Pro Player Stadium||4:16||65,115|
|4||October 11||Chicago Cubs – 8, Florida Marlins – 3||Pro Player Stadium||2:58||65,829|
|5||October 12||Chicago Cubs – 0, Florida Marlins – 4||Pro Player Stadium||2:42||65,279|
|6||October 14||Florida Marlins – 8, Chicago Cubs – 3||Wrigley Field||3:00||39,577|
|7||October 15||Florida Marlins – 9, Chicago Cubs – 6||Wrigley Field||3:11||39,574|
|WP: Ugueth Urbina (1–0) LP: Mark Guthrie (0–1) Sv: Braden Looper (1)
FLA: Iván Rodríguez (1), Miguel Cabrera (1), Juan Encarnacion (1), Mike Lowell (1)
CHC: Moisés Alou (1), Alex S. Gonzalez (1), Sammy Sosa (1)
The Marlins took Game 1 of the series in 11 innings, coming back from an early 4–0 deficit. They scored five runs in the third on three home runs from Juan Encarnacion, rookie Miguel Cabrera, and Ivan "Pudge" Rodríguez. In the sixth inning, down 6–4, the Cubs tied the game on an Alex S. Gonzalez home run off Josh Beckett. The game remained tied until the ninth where the Marlins took a two-run lead. With two outs and one on in the bottom of the ninth, Sammy Sosa hit a booming home run off Ugueth Urbina to send the game into extra innings. In the top of the 11th, pinch-hitter Mike Lowell hit a solo home run off Mark Guthrie that ultimately proved to be the game-winner.
|WP: Mark Prior (1–0) LP: Brad Penny (0–1)
FLA: Derrek Lee (1), Miguel Cabrera (2)
CHC: Sammy Sosa (2), Aramis Ramírez (1), Alex S. Gonzalez 2 (3)
The Cubs cruised behind fireballer Mark Prior. Sosa added his second home run of the series with a prodigious blast that landed behind the center-field camera. Meanwhile, Alex S. Gonzalez, not to be mistaken with the Marlins' Alex L. Gonzalez, sent two homers into the bleachers.
|WP: Joe Borowski (1–0) LP: Michael Tejera (0–1) Sv: Mike Remlinger (1)
CHC: Randall Simon (1)
The Cubs jumped on top in the first inning, as they had done in the previous two games. Sosa drove in Kenny Lofton with an RBI single. The Cubs plated another run in the second, when a single and a pair of walks were followed by a sacrifice fly by Wood. The Marlins got a run back in their half of the second when Alex Gonzalez doubled in Miguel Cabrera with two outs.
Other than the Marlins leaving the bases loaded in the fifth, Wood rolled through the middle innings. Redman, too, held strong until he was pinch-hit for in the seventh.
In the bottom of the 7th, the Marlins finally broke through. Gonzalez led off with a single, followed by a Mike Lowell walk. They were both sacrificed to second and third, and then Gonzalez scored the tying run on an RBI groundout by Luis Castillo. With two outs and Lowell at third, Ivan Rodriguez singled through the right side to give Florida the lead and knocked Wood from the game. At home, the Marlins felt a huge swing of energy, since up until that point both Prior and Wood had seemed unbeatable in the playoffs.
The momentum came to a screeching halt the next inning when Randall Simon followed up a Tom Goodwin triple with a home run into the right-field stands off reliever Chad Fox. The Cubs had suddenly retaken the lead 4-3.
The Marlins tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth against Kyle Farnsworth when Todd Hollandsworth grounded a hit through the left side of the infield to score Cabrera. Florida, however, stranded the bases loaded in the ninth and the game went into extra innings.
In the top of the 11th, Lofton singled with one out. Then the sparingly used Doug Glanville turned out to be the hero when he smoked a triple into the left-center field gap to drive in Lofton with the go-ahead run. Mike Remlinger retired the Marlins in the bottom half of the 11th to secure the 5-4 victory.
Down 2 games to 1, the defeat was a blow to the Marlins, who squandered several chances with runners in scoring position.
|WP: Matt Clement (1–0) LP: Dontrelle Willis (0–1)
CHC: Aramis Ramírez 2 (3)
Aramis Ramírez blasted a first inning grand-slam, the first in Cubs postseason history, and the Cubs cruised to an 8–3 victory, putting them just one victory away from their first World Series in nearly 60 years. This 2003 victory turned out to be the last playoff game won by the Cubs for twelve years, a span of 9 consecutive losses until finally winning the National League Wild Card Game in 2015.
|WP: Josh Beckett (1–0) LP: Carlos Zambrano (0–1)
FLA: Mike Lowell (2), Iván Rodríguez (2), Jeff Conine (1)
With the Marlins facing elimination, Josh Beckett kept them alive by dominating the Cubs, holding them to just two hits and one walk as part of his standout 2003 postseason. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when Mike Lowell hit a two-run homer. Iván Rodríguez and Jeff Conine homered in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Even with the loss, the Cubs looked strong going back home with their two aces, Mark Prior for Game 6 and Kerry Wood, if necessary, to start Game 7.
|WP: Chad Fox (1–0) LP: Mark Prior (1–1)|
With thousands of fans on the street outside sold-out Wrigley Field, poised to celebrate, the Cubs held a 3–0 lead going into the top of the eighth inning of Game 6. After Mike Mordecai hit a high pop fly to left field, the team was a mere five outs away from their first World Series since 1945.
On the eighth pitch of his at bat, Luis Castillo hit a high foul ball toward the left field wall. Cubs left fielder Moisés Alou (a former Marlin) headed toward the stands to catch the ball for the potential second out. As Alou reached for the ball, Cubs fan Steve Bartman, along with others near the area, did the same. The ball bounced off Bartman's hands and into the stands. Though the Cubs pleaded for a call of fan interference, left field umpire Mike Everitt ruled that the ball had left the field of play and was therefore up for grabs. Alou initially acknowledged that he would not have made the catch, but he later denied making such a statement and said if he had, it was only to make Bartman feel better.
As a result, Castillo remained an active batter at home plate. On the next pitch, Prior walked Castillo with a wild pitch that got away from catcher Paul Bako, also allowing Pierre to advance to third base.
Next, Iván Rodríguez hit an 0–2 pitch hard into left field, singling and scoring Pierre. Miguel Cabrera then hit a ground ball toward Cubs shortstop Alex S. Gonzalez that could have ended the inning on a double play. Gonzalez, who led all NL shortstops in fielding percentage, closed his glove too early and the ball landed in the dirt, allowing Cabrera to reach safely, loading the bases. On the next pitch, Derrek Lee (a future Cubs All-Star) drilled a double into left field, scoring Castillo and Rodríguez to tie the score at 3–3.
Prior was taken out of the game and replaced by Kyle Farnsworth, who intentionally walked Mike Lowell to load the bases. Jeff Conine then hit a sacrifice fly to right field for the second out of the inning, allowing Cabrera to score from third and the other runners to each advance one base. This gave the Marlins their first lead of the night. Farnsworth intentionally walked Todd Hollandsworth (another future Cub) to once again load the bases.
The Marlins now having batted around the order, Mordecai, making up for his earlier out, hit a base-clearing double to left-center field, scoring Lee, Lowell and Hollandsworth and making it a 7–3 Marlins lead.
Farnsworth was taken out of the game and replaced by Mike Remlinger, who gave up a single to Pierre to score Mordecai from second base. Castillo popped to shallow right field for the final out of an 8-run inning. The comeback victory by the Marlins forced a final Game 7.
|WP: Brad Penny (1–1) LP: Kerry Wood (0–1) Sv: Ugueth Urbina (1)
FLA: Miguel Cabrera (3)
CHC: Kerry Wood (1), Moisés Alou (2), Troy O'Leary (1)
The Marlins got off to a quick 3–0 lead in the first inning against Cubs ace Kerry Wood, who hadn't lost at Wrigley Field in nearly six weeks. The Cubs responded by tying the score 3–3 in the second inning, which featured a two-run home run by Wood. Moisés Alou's two-run homer the following inning put Chicago up 5–3, but the lead wouldn't last. In the fifth, Florida capitalized on a pair of walks and scored three times to go on top 6–5, a lead they would not relinquish. They added a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh to expand their lead to 9–5. Cubs pinch-hitter Troy O'Leary hit a home run in the seventh, making the score 9–6. After the Cubs were retired in order in the eighth, Florida closer Ugueth Urbina hit Aramis Ramirez with a pitch to lead off the ninth inning, but proceeded to retire the following three batters, giving the Marlins their second National League pennant in their 11-year existence, while leaving the Cubs once again empty-handed.
|Total attendance: 354,503 Average attendance: 50,643|
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The Cubs are up 3-1 in their best-of-seven series with the Marlins after winning 8-3 Saturday night. They are one victory from the World Series. They have to win one game out of three with the Marlins to get there. Two of the games are in Chicago. They could, hypothetically, wrap it up Sunday in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Pro Player Stadium.
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