Cubs prefer using Wood bat

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 1, 2003

ATLANTA - On the first day of spring training, Dusty Baker told his new team to forget the past.

In Game 1 of the NL division series, the often-hapless Chicago Cubs were focused firmly on the future.

That road losing streak in the playoffs? It's history. Led by Kerry Wood, Chicago beat the Atlanta Braves 4-2 Tuesday night for its first postseason victory outside of Wrigley Field since 1945.

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''It's good to get that out of the way,'' said Baker, the Cubs' first-season manager. ''That's a big, big, big game in a five-game series.''

Wood did it all. He limited the NL's best offensive team to two hits in 7 1-3 innings, and drove in the go-ahead runs with a double off 21-game winner Russ Ortiz in the sixth.

''He wanted this badly,'' Baker said. ''A good pitcher turned into a great pitcher.''

The Cubs were cheered on by thousands of their well-traveled fans, who transformed Turner Field into Wrigley Field South. The roar was enormous when Wood drove in two runs with a drive to the wall in left-center, breaking a 1-all tie.

''I've never seen anything like this,'' Chicago first baseman Eric Karros said. ''At some points, it seemed like the Cubs fans were louder than the Braves fans.''

Wood gave them plenty to cheer about. He struck out 11 and completely throttled the high-scoring Braves, a team that had six players with 20 homers and four with 100 RBIs during the regular season. The only major slip-up came in the third, when Marcus Giles homered.

''To give up two hits in 7 1-3 innings to that team and also drive in the winning run, I'd say he was pretty locked in for this game,'' said Joe Borowski, who struck out the side in the ninth for the save.

Trailing 4-1, Atlanta scored a run and knocked out Wood without getting a hit. A questionable call at first on a potential inning-ending double play allowed the run to score.

But Kyle Farnsworth retired Javy Lopez on a bases-loaded grounder to short to end the threat.

''You can look at it like the glass is half-empty or half-full,'' said Braves closer John Smoltz, who didn't get a chance to perform his familiar task. ''We've won three out of four before.''

The Cubs had lost eight straight postseason road games since Claude Passeau pitched a one-hitter to beat Detroit in Game 3 of 1945 World Series.

Of course, Chicago lost that World Series. They've lost 10 straight postseason series since winning their last Series title in 1908.

Maybe this time will be different. Baker knows something about beating the Braves, having guided the San Francisco Giants to a first-round victory over Atlanta on the way to the World Series a year ago.

His new team goes to Game 2 on Wednesday night with a chance to take command of the best-of-five series. At worst, the Cubs will head back to Chicago with a split - and the next two games before their adoring Wrigley rowdies.

Actually, the Cubs must feel as through they're already at home. All those Chicago fans contributed to an overflow crowd of 52,043 at Turner Field, which had its first postseason sellout in three years.

''Let's go Cubs! Let's go Cubs!'' was repeated over and over.

Ortiz, who led the NL with 21 wins, escaped all sorts of trouble through the first five innings - including a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth by striking out the side.

The Cubs loaded the bases again in the sixth on three straight hits by Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez and Karros. Pinch-hitter Randall Simon struck swinging, and Ortiz has a chance to wiggle off the hook once more when Paul Bako hit a slow grounder toward first base.

The ball slipped out of Robert Fick's glove, ending hopes of an inning-ending double play. Second baseman Giles was able to scoop it up and get Bako at first while Alou came across with the tying run.

That broke Ortiz's 19-inning scoreless streak dating to the regular season. Two pitches later, he was knocked out by Wood.

''The 3-6-1 double play is always a tough one to turn,'' Ortiz said. ''But they got just one run out of it, with the pitcher coming up. So I thought we were still all right. But I threw a ball right over the plate, and he took advantage of it.''

Kenny Lofton blooped an RBI single off Ray King to complete the four-run inning.

Now, the Braves have to contend with their own history.

Winners of 12 straight division titles, they are haunted by the chances that got away. Since beginning its unprecedented run in 1991, Atlanta has just one World Series title.

''We've got a great team,'' Ortiz said. ''We'll just have to come back tomorrow and get after it.''