10/04/2003 2:46 PM ET
Confident Cubs not looking ahead
Sheffield not in starting lineup because of hand injury
CHICAGO -- When you've had as many disappointments as Chicago Cubs fans have had over the years, it's not easy to be optimistic, but it was clear Saturday morning the Cubs and their faithful fans are hopeful today will be the day the Cubs advance to the National League Championship Series.
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
The Cubs lead Atlanta, two games to one, in the best-of-five series, they will take on a Braves team that will be without slugger Gary Sheffield in the starting lineup and they are loaded with confidence in a pitching staff that has held the Braves to a .191 average and just three extra-base hits during the first three games.
Another capacity crowd is expected and, unlike Friday, the weather is cooperating. The stage is set for a victory party, but the Cubs aren't looking ahead. The team has gotten this far through great pitching, timely hitting and determination, and it isn't about to do any premature celebrating. The focus hasn't changed.
"Even the game we lost, we were down and we were able to get a run off one of the best closers in the game," said Chicago's Kerry Wood, who would start a Game 5 if the Braves win today. "That shows we're not giving up no matter what adversity is thrown our way. We've done that all year long, and, hopefully, we'll continue to do that."
Sheffield was not in the starting lineup because of an injured left hand, the result of being hit by a pitch from Mark Prior during Friday night's game.
"They're going to work on him all morning and through the game, and I don't know if he's going to be able to pinch hit or not," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "The X-rays were negative and he really has a sore hand."
Darren Bragg will start in right field in place of Sheffield.
Matt Clement will take the mound for Chicago against Atlanta right-hander Russ Ortiz. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 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.