In the crucial third contest of the 2003 National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins staged an incredible seesaw battle that was a textbook example of the beauty that is postseason baseball. It was a scintillating display of grit by both clubs waiting for the other guy to give an inch. In the end, the visiting Chicago Cubs survived in extra innings to preserve a 2-1 lead in the NLCS.
Game Three took place on Friday, October 10, 2003, at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Cubs sent right-hander Kerry Wood to the mound. In 2003, Wood led the majors in strikeouts with 266. In his two NLDS appearances against the Atlanta Braves, he won both, including the Game Five clincher in Atlanta when he struck out seven and walked two in eight innings to give the Cubs their first postseason series win since the 1908 World Series. The Marlins answered with lefty Mark Redman who finished the 2003 campaign with a 14-9 record and a 3.59 ERA. In his only postseason appearance, he pitched six innings and struck out four in a 4-3 Marlins victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game Three of their NLDS battle.
In the top of the first, the road team jumped on the board when Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa drove Kenny Lofton home with a single. It was the fourth straight postseason game in which the Cubs scored first. Sosa’s RBI single was his fifth in five at-bats after being mired in a 3-for-20 slump. Marlins starter Redman was stunned briefly after taking an elbow on the chin from Lofton while to tag him out at first. The Cubs scored another run in the top of the second when Redman gave up a single to first baseman Eric Karros, followed by two walks and a Wood sacrifice fly to center that scored Karros, giving Chicago a 2-0 advantage.
The Marlins cut the Cubs’ lead to 2-1 in their half of the second when Wood gave up singles to rookie Miguel Cabrera and Jeff Conine. With two outs and runners on first and second, Marlins shortstop Álex González doubled to left, scoring Cabrera and sending Conine to third. Through the middle frames, both Wood and Redman held their ground. The Cubs flamethrower was masterful while Redman stood strong. The Cubs ace didn’t face significant trouble until the fifth, when he walked the pitcher with two outs, gave up a single to Juan Pierre, and walked Luis Castillo. Wood appeared to be losing control for the first time in the postseason. With the Cubs’ lead hanging by a thread and runners on second and third, Marlins catcher Iván Rodríguez struck out on a changeup to end the threat.
In the top of the seventh, Redman showed signs of struggle as he gave up singles to Sosa and Moises Alou with two outs. He was replaced by Chad Fox, who walked Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramírez to load the bases. But Fox held firm by striking out Karros to end the inning. In the bottom of the seventh, the Marlins finally had an answer for Wood. González led the frame with a single, then Mike Lowell walked. Pierre sacrificed the runners to second and third. González scored on a Castillo groundout and Rodríguez gave the Marlins a 3-2 lead with a line drive to right that scored Lowell.
However, the lead didn’t last long. The Cubs jumped right back in front in the top of the eighth when first baseman Randall Simon followed up Tom Goodwin’s triple with a two-run blast to center off Marlins reliever Fox to give the road team a 4-3 edge. The Marlins squandered an opportunity to end the game with the bases loaded in the ninth. And just like the first game at Wrigley Field, this game went into extra innings.
In the 11th, Lofton slapped an opposite-field single with one out. Lofton took off for second and Doug Glanville lined a 2-and-1 pitch off Braden Looper to center for a triple that scored Lofton and gave the Cubs a 5-4 lead. Cubs manager Dusty Baker was confident in Glanville’s chances against the Marlins right-hander. “I thought Dougie had a good chance of getting a hit,” Baker said. “Our odds were good he wouldn’t hit into a double play to end the inning.”1
“My goal was just to make contact, and if I could, get it into the gap, which is what happened,” Glanville said. “I knew Lofton could do the rest.”2
The drama continued into the bottom of the 11th, when the Cubs sent left-handed reliever Mike Remlinger to the mound to shut the door on the Marlins. Remlinger struck out Castillo for the second out but the pitch passed catcher Paul Bako and Castillo reached first. Ramírez bobbled Derrek Lee’s grounder but was lucky to catch Castillo in a rundown in which he was called out for running out of the baseline. That ended the game and gave the Cubs a 5-4 win and a 2-1 lead in the series. After the game Castillo offered no regrets for his game-ending decision. “No, because in that situation, I don’t have to run hard because if he catches the ball, he’d tag me,” Castillo said. “The only thing I wanted him to do was throw to first. If he makes a bad throw, I’m going to score. That’s a tough play. He dropped it and that’s why I thought I could go to third.”3
Marlins reliever Fox was painfully honest about surrendering a 3-2 lead in the eighth. “That was a tough one to lose,” he said.” It’s tough for me to swallow.”4 Fox had relieved starter Mark Redman, who had held his own against the league’s strikeout king.
The Cubs got solid pitching from Wood. The bullpen hung tough and Lofton (three hits) scored two of the Cubs’ five runs. But the heroics of Glanville and Simon catapulted the team to victory. “It seems like this whole series guys who weren’t hitting (at all) against certain (pitchers) are getting big hits off those guys,” Dusty Baker said. “The whole game boiled down to pinch-hitters.”5 The victory was a huge one for the visiting club. It ensured that at least one more game would be played at Wrigley Field. With an emotional victory in an essential game, momentum was on the side of the Cubs. “I guess we’ll have to find out,” Glanville said. “Certainly the first game on the road is a great thing for momentum. Now we know we’re going to take the series, at worst, back to Chicago. I think it’s big, and now we feel good about our chances.”6
The Marlins now found themselves two losses from elimination. However, the confidence level of the club was still high. They were playing for the ultimate prize in baseball due to their ability to come back from big losses.
“It’s going to be a dogfight to the end, we’re not going to give up. You look around, we’re not happy we got beat. That’s the way it goes. I’m ready to get right back out there and we’ll see what happens,” said pitcher Chad Fox.7
“I thought this was a seven-game series,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “We had lots of opportunities and didn’t score. I didn’t think we were intimidated by any means and I don’t think because you’re down 2-1. … We were down 1-0 to the Giants and came back. It’s possible to win three in a row. We’ve done it before.”8
The Cubs and Marlins split the next two games, sending the series back to Chicago with the Cubs leading the series three games to two. But they lost the two home games, ending their season. The Marlins won the World Series, beating the Yankees in six games.
In addition to the sources cited in the notes, the author consulted Baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org.
1 Paul Sullivan, “Glanville Delivers in Pinch,” Chicago Tribune, October 11, 2003: Section 3.
3 Greg Bedard, “Castillo Defends Game-Ending Decision,” Palm Beach Post, October 11, 2003: 3CC.
4 Alan Tays, “Fox Shoulders Blamefor Loss,” Palm Beach Post, October 11, 2003: 3CC.
5 Barry Rozner, “Cubs Scratch, Claw, Finally Get Win They Needed to Drown Fish,” Daily Herald (Chicago), October 11, 2003: 1.
6 Bruce Miles, “After Losing Late Lead, Cubs Put Pedal to Metal to Win Game 3,” Daily Herald, October 11, 2003: 1.
8 Joe Capozzi, “Cubs Win in 11th on Glanville’s Hit,” Palm Beach Post, October 11, 2003: 1CC.