Win long time coming

Tribune staff reporter

After all was said and done and the Cubs had clinched their first postseason series victory since 1908, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Mike Remlinger ran out to the stands of Turner Field and began dousing the fans with champagne.

After a 5-1 victory over Atlanta in Game 5 of their National League Division Series that delivered the Cubs into the NL Championship Series, it was time to share the glory.

Drinks were on the house.

"I'm just happy for everybody in the Cubs organization," manager Dusty Baker said. "All the players, the people of Chicago. And I'm really happy for Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and especially Ron Santo, because he couldn't be here."

The rap of lovable losers has haunted the organization for years, but Sunday's victory seemed to change it all in the blink of an eye.

"We didn't listen to it," Wood said, "We stayed positive, and having Dusty in that [manager's] seat helps. Hopefully we won't hear that too much in the future."

Wood was the man of the hour in the series-clinching victory, his second of the series. The day started out on the wrong foot when he learned he forgot to pack his glove before leaving Chicago after Saturday's game. He scrambled to find a new one before settling for one of Mark Prior's.

If the glove fits, wear it.

"I figured I'd find one that knew the strike zone," Wood said.

Wood wore it well, dominating the Braves through eight innings, allowing one run on five hits with seven strikeouts.

The Cubs will face the Florida Marlins in the best-of-seven NLCS, beginning Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs appeared relaxed and confident before the game. Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou and Randall Simon played pepper around the batting cage, while Baker exchanged hugs with Braves players such as Gary Sheffield and Russ Ortiz.

It was business as usual, and the Cubs made a habit of playing well on the road, which Baker often referred to as "business trips." They made Braves starter Mike Hampton work in the first inning, showing patience at the plate and making him throw 30 pitches.

Kenny Lofton started with a double to left, advancing to third on a wild pitch with Sosa at the plate. After Sosa walked, Alou dumped a single in front of left fielder Chipper Jones to bring Lofton home, giving the Cubs a quick lead.

Alex Gonzalez made it 2-0 in the second with a leadoff homer to center field, only the Cubs' third of the series.

The Braves didn't threaten until Javy Lopez doubled with two outs in the fourth, but Wood reared back and struck out Andruw Jones on a 97-m.p.h. fastball. Alou's infield hit in the sixth preceded a two-run homer by Aramis Ramirez, making it a 4-0 game and giving Wood some room to breathe.

The Braves finally got to Wood in the sixth after a leadoff walk to Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles' sharp single. Gary Sheffield, who sat out Game 4 after being hit in the left hand with a Mark Prior pitch in Game 3, followed with a liner into short-center field that forced Lofton to make a sliding catch.

But second-base umpire Bruce Froemming ruled Lofton trapped the ball, allowing Furcal to score from second to make it 4-1. Froemming is famous in Cubs history for ending Milt Pappas' perfect game on Sept. 2, 1972, calling a ball on a close 3-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth, leaving Pappas with a no-hitter.

Fortunately for the Cubs, Giles was confused about the call and Lofton was able to get a force at second before he and Baker began arguing with Froemming. Replays backed Lofton's argument.

Just as it looked like the worm was about to turn, Wood induced Chipper Jones to ground into an inning-ending double play, and the energy level at Turner Field dropped in a nano-second. The next inning, after Gonzalez let a Vinny Castilla liner glance off his glove, Mark Grudzielanek was in perfect position to scoop it up and throw Castilla out, ending the threat.

It was that kind of a night for Wood. It has been that kind of a season for the Cubs.

Baker thought Wood was spent after 117 pitches, and sent Tom Goodwin to pinch-hit with runners on the corners and two outs in the eighth. Goodwin doubled to right off ex-Cub Will Cunnane to score Karros.

When Chipper Jones sent a long fly ball to the wall in right leading off the ninth against Joe Borowski, Sammy Sosa leaped to make the catch. Borowski promptly struck out Lopez and Andruw Jones, closing out the victory in style.

"It was explosive out there," Borowski said of the band of traveling Cubs fans. "When you're in the visiting park, you don't expect to hear what we heard tonight."

It was déjà vu for Baker, whose San Francisco Giants beat Atlanta in Game 5 of the division series in 2002.

"Hopefully, history will repeat itself," Baker said before the game.

Baker's team lost in the seventh game of the World Series, but now he's hoping to rewrite history, with a Hollywood ending for the ages.

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