Marlins 7, Cubs 0; Cubs 11, Marlins 2
That was 11 months ago, when the Marlins scored eight runs in the eighth inning to win Game 6 of the NL championship series, then won the pennant the next night.
Prior was back on the mound Friday, and the Cubs needed a win for a doubleheader split that would keep them from sinking in the NL wild-card race.
“I don’t think it was make or break for us, per se. If we had lost two, we could have found ourselves in a very deep hole and would have to kind of dig out of it,” Prior said after pitching the Cubs to an 11-2 victory.
Chicago moved back into the wild-card lead, one percentage point ahead of Houston and San Francisco and 1 1/2 games ahead of the defending World Series champion Marlins and San Diego.
“The dynamics of this race are that there are five teams, so you can’t get too far behind and you can’t have too many people in front of you,” Prior said.
“It was important for them not to come into our house and sweep us,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “Very rarely to do you see reverse blowouts like today.”
After getting blanked for the second straight game in a a miserable opening performance that had the Wrigley Field crowd booing—the Cubs made three errors and let another catchable ball fall in the outfield—Chicago responded with a season-high 18 hits in the second game.
Friday’s doubleheader served as makeup of one game of a three-game set that was wiped out by Hurricane Frances last weekend in Miami. The teams also must play a doubleheader Sept. 20 in Miami.
After they leave Chicago’s north side following this weekend series, the Marlins aren’t going too far—about eight miles across town, where they will play Montreal on Monday and Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field, a switch made because of Hurricane Ivan.
“We have a crazy next 10 days, so if we get on a good start, I think that’s a key for this team,” Pavano said.
Prior (5-4) benefited from the second-game offense that included four hits from Neifi Perez, just called up from the minors last week, and three by backup catcher Paul Bako. Prior gave up two runs and nine hits in a season-high eight innings, struck out eight and walked none.
The Cubs quickly got to 22-year-old rookie Logan Kensing, three days after he was called up from Class A. He lasted just two-plus innings as he lost in his major league debut, giving up five runs and eight hits.
“It was everything I thought it would be. The field is awesome, the crowd is awesome and the guys are great. I just didn’t throw the ball well,” said Kensing, who arrived 15 minutes before the opener.
Bako had a second-inning sacrifice fly for Chicago’s first run in 19 innings. Alou hit a three-run homer and Ramirez added a solo shot in a four-run third. Corey Patterson and Alou had RBI doubles in the sixth, and Bako and Calvin Murray added RBI singles in the seventh.
In Friday’s opener, Florida got to Kerry Wood (7-7) for six runs—four earned—and 11 hits in six innings.
Pavano (17-5), who started Game 6 of the NLCS, won his fifth straight start and pitched his second shutout of the season. His 17th win matched the franchise record held by Kevin Brown and Alex Fernandez.
Pavano struck out Sammy Sosa with runners on second and third to end it, finishing with six strikeouts and no walks.
The Cubs’ shoddy fielding continued in the sixth, and the boos began to come down as Florida scored four.
After doubles by Juan Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez and a walk, Paul Lo Duca’s high fly fell between Sammy Sosa and Corey Patterson for a two-run single, making it 5-0 before Cabrera delivered another run-scoring single. Pavano hit a two-out RBI double off Jon Leicester in the seventh.
The Marlins lost a home game when last weekend’s series with the Cubs was washed out and now they’re losing at least two more against the Expos, which were to open a four-game series in Miami on Monday. A decision will be made Monday when and where the final two games of that series will be played. They also have to make up an Aug. 1 rainout with Montreal.
“Everybody wants to stay it’s a burden. Sure, it’s tough,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “But we don’t look at it that way, we look at it as an opportunity to cash in. If we do, great. If we don’t, we gave it our best shot.”
Former Cubs star Andre Dawson, now a special assistant with the Marlins, led the singing at the seventh-inning stretch in the opener. And when he tried to throw his Cubs cap into the crowd, it got stuck on a beam below the overhang of the stadium room.