10/12/2003 9:50 PM ET
Cubs head north with confidence
MIAMI -- As the best-of-seven NLCS heads back to Chicago for Game 6 on Tuesday night, the Chicago Cubs sound confident they will get the job done and win a World Series berth for the first time in 58 years.
With a 3-2 lead over the Florida Marlins, the Cubs have their work cut out for them. Let's see: Home game at Wrigley Field. Wind blowing in. Cold and damp. Fans in a frenzy.
And oh yeah -- they have their two best pitchers lined up to close out the series.
On paper, it looks like they can't miss. But after faltering in Game 5 with a 4-0 loss at the hands of Marlins starter Josh Beckett, these Cubs are not taking anything for granted.
By Amy Sternig / MLB.com
"We've got Prior going, so I like our chances," said outfielder Moises Alou. But he refused to think about a loss forcing a Game 7 scenario. He said the Cubs have to win it Tuesday. "We've only got one chance. We can't worry about Wednesday. We want to win every game and we have that frame of mind here. I am very confident of our team."
Confident, yes. But cocky? Not this group led by manager Dusty Baker.
"Now, we go home and we've got two of our big studs on the mound," said second baseman Mark Grudzielanek. "Of course, we're going to be confident."
Baker said he never expected either team to jump out in front and force a short series. Now, with the final two games in sight, he said he is pleased with where his team stands.
"We came in (to Florida), 1-1, and we're leaving, 3-2," Baker said. "And, now, we're going back home to our fans and our people. And it's going to be exciting when we go back. When we go back home, it's in the hands of Mark Prior and whoever else they throw out there."
Baker likes his matchup with Prior, who will go on an extra day's rest in Tuesday night's contest, against right-hander Carl Pavano, who was announced as the Marlins' Game 6 starter after Sunday's game. Pavano will be making his first postseason start.
"He's performed a lot better on the sixth day than he has on the fifth day, which is why we didn't start him (Sunday)," Baker said.
To a man, the Cubs believe they have their two best pitchers on the mound in Game 6 with Prior and Wood in a possible Game 7. While it's stating the obvious to say they were disappointed to not clinch a World Series trip with a win in Miami, there's also something to be said for going home and winning it in front of the Chicago faithful.
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez is a Miami native, but he's happy to leave the south Florida sunshine in the rearview window and head back north. The Cubs are 2-2 at The Friendly Confines in the postseason and were 44-37 there in the regular season.
"We still feel good about the position we're in, but by no means are we going to be taking that for granted," Gonzalez said. "They've been known to be able to come back and we're going to go out there with Mark on the mound and try to turn this thing around. We do feel good about what we've done so far and we get to go back to our home town."
Matt Clement, who picked up the win Saturday night in Game 4, is getting a little antsy for the club to nail down the final win.
"I wanted to win it today," Clement said. "We have two games, and we need to win one of them -- and the sooner the better."
Center fielder Kenny Lofton summed it up rather succinctly.
"Now, it's time for us to go home and throw our aces. We'll be all right."
Amy Sternig is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.