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The Contrarians
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10/11/2003  2:09 AM ET 
The Contrarians
Do the Cubs have a commanding lead in the series?
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MIAMI -- The Chicago Cubs beat the Florida Marlins, 5-4, in 11 innings in Game 3 of the NLCS on Friday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. How crucial is that Game 3 win for the Cubs? Well, that depends who you ask.

  • There's no way Cubs will miss the World Series, argues Jim Molony

  • The Marlins are down, but definitely not out, counters Adam McCalvy

    Give them a read, then let us know what you think.

    Cubs a lock to reach Fall Classic

    Baseball Perspectives
     Jim Molony

    The Chicago Cubs haven't been to the World Series since 1945, but the only way the Cubs will not reach the Fall Classic this year would be to collapse on a scale that would rank right up there with their 1969 slide.

    After winning Game 3 Friday night in Miami, the Cubs are about as close to a lock to reaching the World Series as you can find in this unpredictable game.

    Sure it's only a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, but by winning the crucical Game 3, these Cubs have more than just history on their side. The rotation outlook, momentum and home-field advantage also swing Chicago's way. Common sense tells you the Cubs are in a very formidable position of having their two horses set up for the back end of the series. All of the pressure is on the Marlins, who, as a result of Friday night's defeat, can't close out the series at home as they did against San Francisco in the League Championship Series.

    While the Marlins cannot win the series at Pro Player Stadium, the Cubs would have to lose at least three of the next four games of the series -- with the last two, if needed, scheduled for Wrigley Field -- to miss the World Series. And even if the Cubs lose the next two in Miami, they would go back to Chicago with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in line to pitch Games 6 and 7, respectively, at Wrigley. Considering the Cubs are now 4-0 in postseason games started by their Big Two, you have to like their chances of gaining no worse than a split of the next four games.

    As for history, since the seven-game League Championship Series began in 1985 there have been 14 series tied after two games. In those series the team that won Game 3 won the series 11 times.

    So forget the Goat Curse and their 58-year World Series drought, these Cubs are on the cusp of going to the Big Dance.

    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.


    Marlins have plenty of fight left

    Baseball Perspectives
     Adam McCalvy

    So what if the Fish were fried in Game 3 for the first time in their postseason history?

    So what if the Marlins were just the seventh home team to lose Game 3 of the NLCS since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1985?

    So what if the winner of NLCS Game 3 has advanced to 11 of the last 17 World Series?

    These are the fightin' Florida Marlins, and hooks like that don't seem to hold.

    Take the 11-inning, 5-4 thriller Florida dropped to the Cubs on Friday night. Sammy Sosa put the bad guys ahead in the first inning, but that meant nothing against a school of fish that have come from behind in all four of their wins this postseason. Thanks to some small ball and another huge hit from their $10 million, future Hall of Fame catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, we had a tie game, then a 3-2 Marlins lead in the seventh inning.

    The Cubs stole the lead in the top of the eighth? No matter, pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth tied it up again in the eighth.

    Even after the Cubs took the lead again in the top of the 11th, the Marlins mounted another rally that fizzled on a fluky play between second and third base.

     

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    Cubs skipper Dusty Baker is an avid fisherman, so he should be well aware of the bottom line: these Marlins are fighters, and a two-games-to-one deficit does not mean this big one is about to get away. Especially since the next two games are scheduled for spacious Pro Player Stadium, where speed rules.

    If you're bent on looking at Game 3 history, look at this: The 2002 Giants were stomped by Atlanta, 10-2, at Pac Bell Park in Game 3 of last year's NLCS but went all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. The 2000 Mets lost to the Cardinals, 8-2, but went on to the Subway Series against the Yankees.

    In fact, you have to go back to 1998 to find a home team victorious in Game 3 of the NLCS (the Padres beat the Braves on the way to the World Series).

    Besides, these are the Cubs. Aren't they cursed?

    Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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