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Game balls: NLCS Game 1
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10/08/2003  3:59 AM ET 
Game balls: NLCS Game 1
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It's time to hand out our game balls for Game 1 of the NLCS. Up to five "Harry Carays" to the best and worst of the Cubs, and fish for the Marlins.

Marlins

Five fish: Whale of a performance
Four fish: Starfish
Three fish: Happy as a clam
Two fish: Nice minnow
One fish: Sorry, Charlie


Mike Lowell: Almost any player will tell you one of the toughest things to do in baseball is pinch-hit. It's even harder when it's a role you're not used to filling. Lowell, who is coming off a hand injury and has started just one game this posteason, hasn't complained about having to start games on the bench and nobody for the Marlins was complaining about the way he finished Game 1 -- with a pinch-hit homer to lead off the 11th inning. In a game in which an LCS-record seven homers were hit, Lowell's was the final and biggest.


Alex Gonzalez's glove: The Marlins shortstop kept the game tied in the seventh and eighth with spectacular defensive plays. In the seventh, he picked clean a one-hooper from Sammy Sosa that was headed to center field with runners at the corners and threw out Sosa at first to end the inning. In the eighth, he made a far-ranging play to his right and made a throw to second base from his knees to force out Moises Alou.


Ivan Rodriguez: If Reggie Jackson decides to share his Mr. October title on a year-by-year basis, Rodriguez could be at the front of the line when this postseason ends. Rodriguez, who hit .353 with six RBIs in the Division Series against the Giants, had two big hits for the in Game 1 against the Cubs. With the Marlins down, 4-0, in the third, Pudge got the Marlins back in the game with a three-run homer to left field. In the ninth, it looked as if he had given them a win when he a two-run single to break a 6-6 tie. The win was delayed for two innings, but Rodriguez drove in a game-high five runs.


Braden Looper: In a game in which no lead seemed safe, much less a one-run lead, Looper shut the door on the Cubs with a perfect in the 11th inning, and kept the ball on the infield. He got Ramon Martinez to ground out to third, struck out Damian Miller and retired Kenny Lofton on a ground ball to shortstop. It was Looper's first save, and he hasn't allowed a run three postseason appearances spanning 2 2/3 innings.


Josh Beckett: Looking at the box score, one might be inclined to think Beckett had a bad outing. Beckett certainly got off to a rough start, allowing four runs in the first inning on a double, two triples and a homer. However, he didn't collapse and after Alex Gonzalez doubled in the Cubs' fourth run, Beckett retired the next 12 batters and allowed his team a chance to take the lead. Beckett was hurt more by the events of this sixth inning, when he gave up a game-tying two homer to Alex Gonzalez.

Cubs

Five Harry Carays: Holy Cow!
Four Harry Carays: Like a long fly ball onto Waveland
Three Harry Carays: Careful -- Cubs fans are fickle
Two Harry Caray: Stuck in traffic on Lakeshore Dr.
One Harry Caray: Throw it back!


Alex Gonzalez: After the Marlins turned a 4-0 deficit into a 6-4 lead and dialed down the crowd noise at Wrigley Field from an Oz Fest-level to the equivalent of Lillith Fair, Gonzalez cranked up the volume with a two-run, game-tying home runs to right field. Gonzalez also had a single and double to drive in a team-high three runs from the No. 7 spot in the lineup.


Kyle Farnsworth: It has been fashionable at times this season to criticize the Cubs bullpen, and Game 1 wasn't a spectacular day for the relief coprs as a whole, but Kyle Farnsworth was one of the sharpest relievers for either team. In a game in which 10 pitchers were used, Farnsworth was one of only two (the other being Braden Looper) not to allow a hit. Farnsworth came on in the seventh and after Luis Castillo stole second to move into scoring position, he struck out Ivan Rodriguez and Derrek Lee to end the inning. Farnsworth pitched a perfect eighth and picked up a third strikeout.


Sammy Sosa: Sosa picked the right time to break out of a slump. When Sosa batted in the ninth with two outs and a runner at second and two outs, he was 0-for-4 to drop his average for this postseason to .150 (3-for-20). Sosa, who popped out with a runner at third and one out in the first, and grounded out with runners at the corners to end the seventh, made this at-bat count with a mammoth, game-tying homer to left field. The Cubs hope this is the start of a hot streak for Sosa.


Glove work:In a one-run game, miscues always stand out, and the Cubs were hurt by a pair. In the sixth, catcher Paul Bako had a passed ball with a runners at first and second and nobody out. After the runners advanced, Jeff Conine hit a sacrifice fly to left for the Marlins' only run of the inning. In the ninth, second baseman Mark Grudzielanek bobbled a ball hit to him and failed to tag Luis Castillo, advancing to second or throw out Juan Pierre at first. Grudzielanek's error left the bases loaded, and Ivan Rodriguez's subsequent single drove in two runs instead of one.


Carlos Zambrano: Zambrano had a 4-0 lead to work with when he took the mound in the second inning and when the Cubs came to bat in the third they faced a one-run deficit. Zambrano, who allowed nine home runs during the regular season, allowed three in the third inning. Zambrano's inability to hold a lead has turned into a disturbing trend, Including Game 1, Zambrano has been unble to hold multi-run leads in each of his last four starts and allowed 35 hits and nine walks in 21 1/3 innings.

Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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