Teams combine for record 7 home runs

CHICAGO (AP) -- Sammy Sosa took a signature hop, his ball soaring

way over the ivy-covered wall and turning a packed Waveland Avenue

into Bedlam Boulevard. At long last, his big October moment had


Too bad for the Chicago Cubs, he only tied the score.

Game 1 breakdown

Unsung Hero

Alex Gonzalez. Two defensive gems kept the game tied 6-6. Web Gem No. 1: Gonzalez snares a Sammy Sosa bullet with a runner on third to end the seventh. Web Gem No. 2: Gonzalez's range takes away a hit from Aramis Ramirez in the eighth that effectively snuffs a Cubs' rally. Luis Castillo contributes a nice scoop on the force play.


Ugueth Urbina and Mark Guthrie. Urbina for putting a pitch in Sosa's wheelhouse and Guthrie for hanging one to Mike Lowell.

Turning Point

Mark Grudzielanek bobbles the ball trying to tag Juan Pierre on what could have been an inning-ending double play. Everybody safe. Pudge Rodriguez delivers a two-run double, and Florida never trails again.

It Figures

The Cubs and Marlins combined for a postseason-record 17 extra-base hits in the highest-scoring game of the 2003 playoffs.

On Deck

Brad Penny vs. Mark Prior in Game 2, Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

With the old ballpark still shaking after Sosa's tremendous,

two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning, Mike Lowell

wrecked the Wrigley Field party in a hurry.

Lowell led off the 11th with a pinch-hit home run that sent the

Florida Marlins over the Cubs 9-8 Tuesday night in the NL

Championship Series opener.

"It just kept going back and forth. Weird," Lowell said. "It

was kind of like a boxing match."

In a game featuring seven homers, four triples and six doubles,

Sosa's shot was clearly the most dramatic. Everyone within earshot

went crazy -- well, almost everyone.

"We didn't celebrate, for sure," Marlins manager Jack McKeon

said. "I think there was a pause right there."

The Marlins, though, were far from finished. Having overcome an

early four-run deficit with a homer and five RBI by playoff star

Ivan Rodriguez, they won it with Lowell.

"Despite the way we've been playing, they just kept coming

back, coming back," Sosa said. "They have a lot of heart for a

young team."

Too much for the Cubs in Game 1.

"That's playoff baseball," Chicago manager Dusty Baker said.

"It was full of emotional twists. I'm sure everyone is emotionally


"It's disheartening. We had an opportunity to win the game,"

he said. "Sad we came out on the short end, very sad."

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night with Brad Penny pitching for Florida and Mark Prior going for the Cubs.

An All-Star third baseman, Lowell missed almost all of the final

four weeks because of a broken left hand, and has played sparingly

in the postseason. He was ready for his first pinch-hitting

appearance this year, batting for winning pitcher Ugueth Urbina and

launching a drive over the center-field wall off Mark Guthrie.

The sellout crowd of 39,567 started rocking as Moises Alou

homered in a four-run first. But the Marlins, who posted three

comeback wins over San Francisco in the opening round, stormed back

when Rodriguez, rookie Miguel Cabrera and Juan Encarnacion homered

in a five-run third.

"These guys don't quit, and it was very evident today," McKeon


Braden Looper pitched the 11th for a save, giving the Marlins a

win and a nice omen. The last 10 teams to win the NLCS opener have

reached the World Series.

After avoiding Barry Bonds in the first round, McKeon said he

would pitch to Sosa in this series.

And it was a good decision -- up until Slammin' Sammy took his

final swing.

Sosa tied it with a no-doubt drive to left field, connecting off


Sosa pointed to the sky as he touched home plate, as much in joy

as in relief. The slugger with 539 career homers had been only

5-for-31 with zero homers and one RBI in postseason play, and his

playoff slumps were starting to cloud his regular season


"I just tried to stay calm," he said. "Coming through with

two outs, everybody was ready to go home."

As Sosa trotted to right field for the top of the 10th, his fans

in the right-field bleachers bowed and he doffed his cap.

Rodriguez put the Marlins ahead 8-6 with yet another big

postseason hit, a two-run single in the ninth. He delivered right

after a disputed play that put the Cubs in jeopardy.

With runners on first and second and one out, Luis Castillo hit

a slow grounder to second baseman Mark Grudzielanek. He fielded it

cleanly, but fumbled it as he tried to tag Juan Pierre and start an

inning-ending double play.

Pierre scampered to second as the bases became loaded. Baker

argued umpire Fieldin Culbreth's call to no avail.

Baker said he thought Grudzielanek had control when he made the

tagged. Told the replays showed the ball was loose, Baker said,

"Well, the umpire was correct."

Rodriguez took advantage with a liner past Grudzielanek that

broke a 6-all tie.

"It's nice to start with a win," Rodriguez said. "Now we've

got to concentrate on trying to win tomorrow, too."

Alex Gonzalez, with a history of clutch homers for the Cubs,

came through again with a two-out, two-run shot in the sixth off

starter Josh Beckett. His opposite-field shot into the basket

hanging off the right-field wall made it 6-all.

Marlins shortstop Alex Gonzalez had a couple of key

contributions, making two neat stops late in the game to keep it


Down 4-0 in the third, Florida struck back in startling fashion

-- three homers in a span of only 13 pitches. And the Marlins did it

against a pitcher who rarely serves them up -- about one every 24


Pierre began the comeback with a one-out triple and Castillo

walked. That brought up Rodriguez, the Marlins' first-round star,

and brought out pitching coach Larry Rothschild to visit excitable

Carlos ambrano, a 22-year-old righty who makes a habit of hopping

around the mound.

Rothschild had barely made it back to the dugout when Rodriguez

hit a liner into the left-center field bleachers for a three-run

shot. An out later, Cabrera and Encarnacion connected for

consecutive home runs.

Jeff Conine made the last out of the inning on a lazy, routine

fly. The fans, in shock after the Marlins' power show, still gasped

when the ball left the bat.<

Game notes

At 20, Cabrera became the second-youngest player to homer

in postseason history. Andruw Jones was 19 when he connected for

Atlanta in the 1996 World Series. ... Both starting shortstops were

named Alex Gonzalez. Fittingly, they threw each other out on

grounders in the fourth inning. ... Plate umpire and crew chief

Jerry Crawford left the game in the fourth inning after feeling

ill. Mike Reilly moved in from right field to take his place.