Game over, right?
"The odds aren't too good," Cubs manager Dusty Baker admitted.
The 15-inning victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the
"We just didn't give up, we kept clawing and clawing," Baker
said. "Thank God for Hollandsworth and Goodwin."
Aramis Ramirez, who had four hits, doubled for the third time to
lead off the inning, and moved to third on a single by Lee. Against
a drawn-in infield, Ramon Martinez hit a grounder to shortstop
Jesse Garcia, who quickly threw home to easily get Ramirez.
J.D. Drew caught it with his feet straddling the foul line.
"It would have been a risky move to let it fall," Goodwin
said. "I knew if he caught it, it would be deep enough to score
Eddie Perez went 2-for-6 for the Braves, and he, Ramirez and
Lee, who had two singles, were the only players with more than one
"We thought we had it won a couple of times," Atlanta manager
Bobby Cox said. "We just couldn't get a big, clutch hit."
The Cubs tied it on a pinch-homer by Hollandsworth, who drove a
pitch from Smoltz deep into the seats in right.
"Honestly, against Smoltz, you're hoping for it, but you're not
trying to hit a home run," Hollandsworth said. "It's a huge win
for us, no matter how many innings it took."
Smoltz had elbow surgery in the offseason and has allowed home
runs in three straight appearances, the first time that's happened
in nearly three years. Part of his problem is his location -- it's
too good. He's thrown 26 straight strikes, and 32 of his 35 pitches
this season have been over the plate.
"Every inning we played was more salt in my wounds," Smoltz
said. "This is a tough one to lose."
The drawn-out finish spoiled a wonderful pitching duel.
Atlanta's Horacio Ramirez pitched seven shutout innings -- the
longest any starter has lasted so far for the Braves -- and Carlos
Zambrano allowed only two hits in seven innings for the Cubs.
One of those was a solo homer hit by Andruw Jones in the second,
which was the only run through the first eight innings.
"From the third inning to the seventh, I was in control,"
Through their first three games, the Braves were batting .360 as
a team. They scored 30 runs -- including 28 in back-to-back
victories over the New York Mets -- and had 40 hits.
None of that mattered against Zambrano, who struck out seven and
retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced.
The Braves failed to convert an opportunity for an insurance run
in the eighth. Perez singled off Kyle Farnsworth with one out, and
pinch-hitter Dewayne Wise moved him to third with a double down the
Atlanta left the bases loaded in the 12th and 13th, and the Cubs
left two runners stranded in the 12th, 14th and 15th.
"If you don't have a good bullpen that comes through for you,
you don't have nothing," Baker said.
The game was a rematch of the first round of last season's
playoffs. The Cubs won deciding Game 5 at Turner Field -- their
first postseason series victory in 95 years -- and then blew a 3-1
lead in the NL championship series against the Florida Marlins.
But that was 2003, and both of these teams are very different.
The Braves no longer have Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez or Vinny
Castilla in their lineup, and longtime ace Greg Maddux signed a
free agent with the Cubs, his original organization.
That was part of Chicago's retooling that left the lovable
losers from Wrigleyville as favorites in the NL Central.
Cubs RHP Sergio Mitre gets the start Saturday against the
Braves, replacing RHP Mark Prior. Prior likely is out until May
with inflammation in his right Achilles' tendon and a stiff elbow.
In his final appearance of the spring, Mitre pitched three
scoreless innings last Saturday against Arizona. ... Perez got his
first start of the season behind the plate in place of Johnny
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