10/08/2003 9:34 PM ET
Confident Fish go home with split
Redman gets the nod in Game 3 at Pro Player Stadium
CHICAGO -- OK, a 12-3 loss was uncomfortably ugly. But this is baseball, not figure skating. No judges voting on artistic merit.
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
A loss is a loss. And a split is a split, and it means taking a victory back to the other friendly confines.
The Marlins' Pro Player Stadium may not be as intimate as Wrigley Field, and it definitely doesn't have any ivy. But what it will have Friday night, for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, is upwards of 70,000 fans.
It will also include a confident bunch of Marlins who, counting the two Division Series-clinching wins over San Francisco, take a 55-29 home record into the next three NLCS games.
"We're in a good situation," said left-hander Mike Redman, who will start Game 3. "Everyone hoped for this to happen, that we take one here, and that's what we did.
"You don't want to be greedy and come in here expecting to sweep the Cubs. So we put ourselves in a good position."
"We got one out of two here," said Brad Penny, whose off-night from the get-go quickly drove all greedy thoughts out of the Marlins' minds. "Now we'll go back home and start it up again."
The Marlins now will also enter their left-handed phase. Redman, the erstwhile free agent from Detroit, and Dontrelle Willis, the exciting rookie, went 28-15 and are up back-to-back.
"It's tied up, and now we hope to get back home and take them," said Willis.
The Cubs went 18-20 against left-handed starters during the regular season, and Redman will have at least that going for him Friday night against Kerry Wood.
That, and an enthusiastic house that has been typical of the Marlins' stretch drive.
"It wasn't just the playoffs," Redman said, in reference to crowds of 65,000 which abetted the upset of the Giants. "Fans started coming toward the end of the season, and it was really exciting to see 35,000-40,000 of them out there.
"Now, we know that we can go home to 70,000, it'll be exciting. I enjoy pitching at home, period, regardless of the situation. Who doesn't in front of a home crowd? I'm looking forward to getting back to that great setting."
Yeah, Mike, but, following two unseasonably warm October nights in Chicago, it might be cooler under the Miami moon.
"It'll still be warmer than the atmosphere here," said Redman, mindful of vocal Wrigleyville denizens who sure enough rolled out the welcome wagon -- figuratively right over the visitors.
The Marlins definitely got an earful Wednesday night, while the Cubbies were pounding out 16 hits, four more of them over the walls.
Included was the 495-foot launch by Sammy Sosa. "I've never seen a ball hit into the bleachers there," said Marlins center-fielder Juan Pierre. "Never mind up where he hit it."
But home runs are like defeats. No bonus points for distance, or for majesty.
"A loss is a loss. Doesn't matter if it's 9-8, like we beat them last night, or what it was tonight," Willis said. "We still wind up even."
Enough reason for manager Jack McKeon to light up a cigar (well, any reason is good enough, actually).
"We're very happy coming out with a split against this very good ballclub," McKeon said. "We went to San Francisco, and were happy to come out with a split and it worked out all right.
"Pretty tough to go into the opposition's ballpark and win two in a row."
"We're 1-1, and now we get to go home to our place, and see 70,000 pulling for you," said Ivan Rodriguez. "We're ready for that. We've got to get ready for Friday night."
"You always hope to split on the road and win the majority of your games at home," said Jeff Conine. "And there's your series victory. We've accomplished this end of it."
While a pumped Pro Player Stadium is a new experience for most of the Marlins, who grew up in recent years often playing in front of smaller crowds, it's a nostalgic trip for Conine.
The left-fielder recalls the euphoria of the 1997 drive to the World Series title.
"Yeah, the atmosphere now is very similar," he said. "Packed houses, loud and very boisterous fans. You kinda feed off that."
The Friday feeding frenzy will begin at 8 p.m. ET.
"We can go back home and take care of business now," Pierre said. "It's better to be 1-1 than 0-2. Definitely, it's good to get the split. Now we'll go home and take the fans being behind us, and hope to take care of business -- so we don't have to come back here.
"The atmosphere's been real good at home. It's always better to play in front of people, especially when they're cheering for you," said Pierre. "We hope it has an affect on the visiting team. Yes, they play in front of big crowds, too, but our crowd will be bigger and will be cheering for us, so hopefully it will affect them a little bit."
So the Marlins were undeterred, even before getting this interesting bit of info: The last 10 winners of the NLCS opener have gone on to the World Series. Apparently, they not only accomplished the split that they wanted, but won the right game.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.