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Cubs on the brink of going to NLCS
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10/03/2003 11:21 PM ET 
Cubs on the brink of going to NLCS
Braves have lost in NLDS three of last four years
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Mark Prior threw a two-hitter in his first postseason start. (Brian Kersey/AP)
CHICAGO -- Holy Cow!

Could it be? It might be. It is ... not quite yet. But believe it or not Chicago, the Cubs are just one win shy of the National League Championship Series.

Mark Prior outdueled future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux with a masterful two-hit performance in a 3-1 victory over Atlanta in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Friday night at Wrigley Field, meaning the only way Dusty Baker's Cubs won't advance to the next round is if they drop the next two games to the Braves.

This is one time history isn't against the Cubs. Of the 13 times the Division Series has been tied, the team that captured Game 3 has won the series nine times. Only one NL team has come back to win a best-of-five series after losing two of the first three games: San Francisco, which accomplished the feat last year against Atlanta.

Even if Chicago does not wrap it up Saturday when Matt Clement starts for the Cubs against Russ Ortiz in Game 4, the Cubs will have Game 1 winner Kerry Wood ready to go in a possible Game 5 at Turner Field on Sunday.

The series features the Cubs' outstanding pitchers against a Brave offense that led the league in hitting, home runs and runs, yet so far the Braves have managed only eight runs in three games as the Cub pitchers have had the upper hand. The Braves are hitting just .189 (18-for-95) with three extra base hits in the series.

Jim Molony is a writer for based in Houston. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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