Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Cubs' Kerry Wood `wanted this badly'

MLB PLAYOFFS Chicago's starting pitcher allowed only two hits in a little over 7 innings and also knocked in the winning runs after hitting a double off of Ortiz

AP , ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Christian Guzman of the Twins slides safely into third base ahead of the tag by Yankees' third baseman Aaron Boone in the third inning of Game 1 of their American League Division Series playoff at Yankee Stadium in New York, Tuesday. Guzman went on to score on a sacrifice fly by Luis Rivas.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Led by Kerry Wood, the Chicago Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves 4-2 in Game 1 of the National League division series Tuesday night for their first postseason victory outside of Wrigley Field since 1945.

"It's good to get that out of the way," said Dusty Baker, the Cubs' manager. "That's a big, big, big game in a five-game series."

Wood did it all. He limited the NL's best offensive team to two hits in 7 1-3 innings, and drove in the go-ahead runs with a double off 21-game winner Russ Ortiz in the sixth.

"He wanted this badly," Baker said. "A good pitcher turned into a great pitcher."

The Cubs were cheered on by thousands of their well-traveled fans, who transformed Turner Field into Wrigley Field South. The roar was enormous when Wood drove in two runs with a drive to the wall in left-center, breaking a 1-all tie.

"I've never seen anything like this," Chicago first baseman Eric Karros said. "At some points, it seemed like the Cubs fans were louder than the Braves fans."

Wood gave them plenty to cheer about. He struck out 11 and completely throttled the high-scoring Braves, a team that had six players with 20 homers and four with 100 RBIs during the regular season. The only major slip-up came in the third, when Marcus Giles homered.

"To give up two hits in 7 1-3 innings to that team and also drive in the winning run, I'd say he was pretty locked in for this game," said Joe Borowski, who struck out the side in the ninth for the save.

Trailing 4-1, Atlanta scored a run and knocked out Wood without getting a hit. A questionable call at first on a potential inning-ending double play allowed the run to score.

But Kyle Farnsworth retired Javy Lopez on a bases-loaded grounder to short to end the threat.

"You can look at it like the glass is half-empty or half-full," said Braves closer John Smoltz, who didn't get a chance to perform his familiar task. "We've won three out of four before."

The Cubs had lost eight straight postseason road games since Claude Passeau pitched a one-hitter to beat Detroit in Game 3 of 1945 World Series.

Of course, Chicago lost that World Series. They've lost 10 straight postseason series since winning their last Series title in 1908.

Maybe this time will be different. Baker knows something about beating the Braves, having guided the San Francisco Giants to a first-round victory over Atlanta on the way to the World Series a year ago.

His new team goes to Game 2 on Wednesday night with a chance to take command of the best-of-five series. At worst, the Cubs will head back to Chicago with a split -- and the next two games before their adoring Wrigley rowdies.

Now, the Braves have to contend with their own history.

Winners of 12 straight division titles, they are haunted by the chances that got away. Since beginning its unprecedented run in 1991, Atlanta has just one World Series title.

Giants 2, Marlins 0

In San Francisco, Jason Schmidt, the 17-game winner with the National League's lowest ERA, pitched the Giants' first playoff shutout in 16 years, throwing a three-hitter for a 2-0 victory over the Florida Marlins in Game 1 Tuesday.

"Once spring training started, I was ready to roll this year," said Schmidt, who has gradually gained confidence since coming to the Giants from Pittsburgh two years ago. "I couldn't wait to get back here again."

Schmidt outdueled Josh Beckett while Barry Bonds and the Giants took advantage of a costly error by fill-in Florida third baseman Miguel Cabrera to score the go-ahead run.

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