SERIES: NL championship series; tied 1-1.
Wood looks to continue his domination of the Marlins when the ace right-hander takes the mound for the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the NL championship series.
Wood is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in five career starts against the Marlins, and 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two starts at Pro Player. He pitched complete games against the Marlins in consecutive outings on July 9 and July 19 this year, allowing one earned run.
He gave up one run and three hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts in a 5-1 win at Wrigley Field in the first outing, then threw a two-hitter in Florida as he walked five and struck out eight in a 1-0 victory.
The Marlins, however, have been outstanding at their home ballpark.
They won 16 of 19 at Pro Player to end the regular season before posting one-run victories over San Francisco in both division series games there, including the Game 4 clincher. Florida tied for the fourth-most home victories in the majors during the season with 53.
“Most of the big crowds we’ve played in front of have been on the road, where people are telling us how bad we are,” center fielder Juan Pierre said. “So it’s good to get a lot of people cheering us on.
“Just driving around town seeing Marlins stuff, it’s a big lift from where we came from early this year, when there was basically nobody in the crowd.”
There will be plenty of Florida fans in the stands hoping their team can solve Wood, who in this postseason has started to look like the staff ace the Cubs have long expected him to become. He won Game 2 and the decisive fifth game against Atlanta in the division series, posting a 1.76 ERA and lasting 15 1-3 innings.
The Cubs enter Friday’s contest feeling confident with one of their aces on the mound, and coming off a 12-3 rout of the Marlins at Wrigley Field in Game 2 to pull even in the series.
Mark Prior, Chicago’s other young ace, threw seven strong innings to lead the team to victory.
“When you have a guy go out and throw a gem the night before you pitch, you want to go out and do the same or better,” Wood said.
“I was so happy that I had a chance to produce,” Sosa said. “As soon as I put the swing on the ball, the ball was out of the ballpark.
“I’ve been lucky. I’ve been seeing good pitches and I’ve hit them out.”
Wood will take his shot at trying to slow the homer barrage of the first two contests. The teams combined for 13 home runs in Chicago, including six on Wednesday.
The Marlins still seem very sure of themselves despite the blowout loss.
“We’re very happy coming out with a split against this very good ballclub,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “It’s pretty tough to go into the opposition’s ballpark and win two in a row.”
With the next three games at Pro Player, including Game 4 on Saturday, it is possible this series won’t return to Wrigley Field.
“Maybe we can finish things without having to come back up here,” Pierre said.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Cubs - CF Kenny Lofton (.296, 12 HRs, 46 RBIs), 2B Mark Grudzielanek (.314, 3, 38), RF Sosa (.279, 40, 103), LF Moises Alou (.280, 22, 91), 3B Aramis Ramirez (.272, 27, 106), 1B Randall Simon (.275, 16, 72), SS Alex Gonzalez (.228, 20, 59), C Damian Miller (.233, 9, 36). Marlins - CF Pierre (.305, 1 HR, 41 RBIs), 2B Luis Castillo (.314, 6, 39), C Ivan Rodriguez (.297, 16, 85), 1B Derrek Lee (.271, 31, 92), 3B Miguel Cabrera (.268, 12, 62), RF Juan Encarnacion (.270, 19, 94), LF Jeff Conine (.282, 20, 95), SS Alex Gonzalez (.256, 6, 18).
CUBS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Wood (14-11, 3.20 ERA). The right-hander pitched 7 1-3 innings in a 4-2 win over the Braves in the division series opener Sept. 30, allowing two hits and two runs while striking out 11 and walking five. He went eight innings in the series clincher Sunday night, giving up one run and five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks for the 5-1 victory.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Redman (14-9, 3.59). The left-hander won his first start of the postseason, pitching six innings and allowing two runs and seven hits in Florida’s 4-3, 11-inning victory over San Francisco in Game 3. He had one of his best starts of the season in his only 2003 appearance against the Cubs, pitching seven innings and giving up four hits with nine strikeouts and no walks in a 6-0 victory July 18. That was also Redman’s only career start against Chicago.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - SS Gonzalez, a Miami native, has four homers in his last three games. … Simon, platooning with Eric Karros at first base, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs on Wednesday. … CF Lofton went 4-for-5 in Game 2 to become the 15th player to have four hits in an NLCS game. Marlins - C Rodriguez went 1-for-3 on Wednesday and is hitting .375 in the NLCS. He is hitting .360 (9-for-25) with two homers and 11 RBIs in the postseason. … 3B Cabrera has eight hits in his last 15 at-bats after going 2-for-4 in Game 2. Cabrera played the final three innings at shortstop in order to give 3B Mike Lowell some at-bats.
HOME/ROAD RECORDS: Cubs - 44-37 on the road in regular season, 2-1 in postseason. Marlins - 53-28 at home in regular season, 2-0 in postseason.