10/04/2003 1:28 AM ET
Cubs try to end Braves' season
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs, a team nobody wanted to play in the postseason because of their outstanding pitching, are one win away from playing in the National League Championship Series. The Cubs can clinch a berth in the NLCS for the first time since 1989 by beating Atlanta in Game 4 of the NLDS on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
Mark Prior's two-hitter in Game 3 continued the Cubs' streak of strong starting pitching. Cub starters are 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA (6 ER/22 IP) and have pitched all but four innings in the series. The staff has held Atlanta, a team that led the league in hitting (.284), home runs (235) and runs (907) to a .191 average, one homer and eight runs.
The Braves, who averaged 3.6 extra-base hits per game during the regular season, have a total of three in as many games against the Cubs: a pair of doubles by Mark DeRosa and a home run by Marcus Giles.
Still, the Braves do not agree that they are struggling offensively.
"We don't feel like we're scrambling and I'm not down at all," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "All we have to do is win two ballgames and we've done that hundreds of times. I feel real good. A few hits and we're OK, we're playing pretty good ball, we just need to get a few hits."
The Braves need to get the hits sooner or there won't be a later. Should Atlanta lose Saturday or Sunday, they will have been eliminated from the NLDS for the third time in four years.
Cox will send Russ Ortiz, who lost Game 1 to Kerry Wood, to start Game 4 against Chicago right-hander Matt Clement.
Clement was on the mound last week when the Cubs clinched the NL Central division title.
"I think him clinching it at home in his last start is going to really help him tomorrow to deal with the noise and the pressure of trying to clinch at home," Chicago manager Dusty Baker said.
Game time is scheduled for 3:07 p.m. CT.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.