10/07/2003 11:12 PM ET
Lowell stars in postseason theater
Pinch-homer lifts Marlins past the Cubs in Game 1
Lowell's homer: 56K | 300K
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
"It's depressing and demoralizing that you can't be out there. That's what you live for, to play in those situations. ... So all through the game, while you're working on your (injury), you just kind of visualize and create this moment in your mind. You say things to yourself like, 'When I walk out of the dugout, the fans are going to go nuts and then I won't hurt anymore.' And you visualize certain pitches that you're going to see. And you visualize yourself running around the bases, celebrating."
CHICAGO -- If you guessed that those comments were made by Mike Lowell, then you would be close. They were uttered 15 Octobers ago, when the Florida Marlins slugger was a high-school freshman in South Florida. It is exactly how Kirk Gibson described how he prepared for a postseason Game 1 to come off the bench from injury and hit a monumental home run that would last forever.
This was not quite the same miracle by any stretch of the imagination, and there was no fist-pumping from Lowell as he rounded the bases Tuesday night with the dramatic pinch-homer in the top of the 11th inning at Wrigley Field that beat the Chicago Cubs, 9-8.
Lowell's homer was the seventh of the game, which set a League Championship Series record.
It was more postseason theater at its finest, and what Lowell said after the game certainly made you think about what Gibson had said after he limped up to the plate and took Oakland's Dennis Eckersley deep in the 1988 World Series.
"I was just prepared to have the at-bat," Lowell said. "I'm not used to the pinch-hitting thing. My main focus was to stay loose. I was running up and down the stairs, and stretch and make some dry swings in the clubhouse to be loose, basically from the seventh inning on, because I didn't know. I can't say I knew it was going to be hit off (Mark) Guthrie. I was just ready for the at-bat."
Lowell was just waiting in the wings to make something special happen in this series. He was hit by a pitch on the hand at the end of August and missed the rest of the regular season with a fracture, and he proved so rusty during the National League Division Series against San Francisco that rookie Miguel Cabrera continued to start at third -- and will do so again in Game 2 of this series.
So Lowell is relegated, for now, to just this kind of bench duty, and the Marlins had the best of both worlds as Cabrera hit one of those three Florida homers in the third inning, followed much later by Lowell's long ball.
"Mike is a great guy," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "He's a real pro. But if he were manager, he wouldn't put himself in there either."
Guthrie relieved Joe Borowski to start the 11th, and Lowell took him to dead-center, over Kenny Lofton's head and just clearing the bricks. It was his second pinch-homer, and it was the seventh homer of the game from both teams to set an LCS record.
"It was very satisfying -- I think that's an understatement," Lowell said. "I know I had to kind of urge the doctors a little to let me play that last game, but that was very important to me, because I was told my hand was going to be getting significantly better each day. My goal was to at least see if I could swing that last day, and keep getting better through batting practice. I think things worked out very well.
"It was the biggest home run I've hit. So I just -- I don't know, I was just looking at Kenny Lofton, hoping he didn't have a bead on it. Things just worked out nice. I can't explain it. It was just a great feeling, to come back, and they had the lead, and we take it back, and it was a great 11th I think, and we came home with a victory."
Cubs manager Dusty Baker was well aware of Lowell's presence on the bench.
"Yeah, I anticipated they'd bring in Lowell," Baker said. "But in that situation I was down to three pitchers. And if I brought in a righty, they had (Lenny) Harris over there, and (Dave) Veres is good, so I took my shot with Lowell. Even if he gets a base hit, he's not a threat to steal. He can't run, and I've got the left-handers up after him. Lowell hadn't been playing much. I liked the matchup there. Lowell, and then hopefully get (Juan) Pierre and (Luis) Castillo, and go to my right-handers. I took the shot in the 11th with Lowell, we hung a pitch and he hit it."
McKeon said of that matchup: "It was perfect. We know that (Lowell) has some power. And he was the guy we wanted in that situation, especially when they brought the left-hander in. It couldn't happen to a greater guy, really. Mike has been hurt. The other kid came in, Cabrera has done an outstanding job offensively and defensively, and it's tough to get Mike some at-bats. He understands the situation. And I was very happy to see him be able to deliver the winning ball, and also make him feel like he's part of this thing, too."
The home run was typical of Florida's resiliency all night, this one after Sammy Sosa had tied the game with a long ball in the bottom of the ninth. It also was huge, because the Marlins now face Mark Prior and Kerry Wood back-to-back.
"I think our main goal was to try to hold them there, and try to scratch and claw, maybe pick up one or two runs at a time," Lowell said. "We blasted back in that third inning. It was a huge momentum swing, being down 4-0 and going up 5-4. And it just kept going back and forth. It was weird. This was an exciting game. Two outs in the ninth with Sammy up, he came through for the crowd. It was like a boxing match."
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.