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One final wild ride
Cubs, Giants decide NL's wild-card race Monday night
Posted: Monday September 28, 1998 10:21 PM
ATLANTA (CNN/SI) -- One game, one more chance and -- finally -- one winner.
The wild wild-card race in the National League, really the only nail-biting playoff race in the big leagues this year, will be decided Monday night once and for all. The San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs begin baseball's playoff season with a one-game winner-take-all affair at Wrigley Field for the NL's wild-card spot.
"A week ago, we were five back," Giants outfielder Joe Carter said. "If someone had told us then this would come down to a one-game playoff, us against the Cubs, we would have taken it."
Both teams will take it, considering the Sunday each had to endure. Both teams had a chance to win -- the Giants had a 7-0 lead over the Colorado Rockies -- but neither did. The Giants lost to the Rockies in the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs to the Houston Astros in the bottom of the 11th.
To make the wild-card ride even wilder, the losses came within minutes of each other, so both the Giants and Cubs left the field not knowing what the other had done.
``We were destined to play 163 games,'' Cubs pitcher Terry Mulholland said. ``This is just not a normal year.''
Said Giants catcher Brent Mayne: "This is pretty weird ... I don't know ... it's just a weird feeling. You're walking off the field dejected, and by the time you get to the dugout, you're back in it again. It's unbelievable, really."
Monday night's game will be the first one-game playoff since 1980, when Houston beat Los Angeles. The game is a rematch of the 1989 National League Championship Series -- the last time the Cubs made the playoffs.
The Cubs gave won five of their eight games against the Giants this season.
Mark Gardner (13-5) will pitch for the Giants against Steve Trachsel (14-8). The game begins at 8:05 ET.
"It's a second chance for us,'' Cubs reliever Rod Beck said. ``Whatever it takes, man. Whatever it takes.''
It's also another chance for Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa to add to his home run total. Sosa, who did not have a homer Sunday, has hit 66 this season, second only to record-setting Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals. McGwire hit his 69th and 70th Sunday.
Any homers Sosa hits Monday night count toward his regular-season total.
The winner of Monday night's game will play the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday in the first game of a best-of-5 series. The other playoff series will begin Tuesday, when the Houston Astros play the San Diego Padres, the wild card Boston Red Sox will play the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees meet the Texas Rangers.
The Yankees won a league-record 114 games, breaking the mark of 111 by Cleveland in 1954. Only the 1906 Chicago Cubs (116) won more.
"I remember the 1954 Indians. They set the record for wins in a season, but they lost the World Series to the Giants in four straight," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Sure, there's pressure to win the World Series, but it isn't any more pressure than what we put on ourselves. The bottom line is that our goal every year is to win the World Series."
David Wells, who pitched a perfect game this season, will start for New York. Todd Stottlemyre, whose father, Mel, is the Yankees pitching coach, will start for the Rangers. The Yankees were 8-3 against the Rangers this year.
"You look at what they've done over the course of a 162-game season," Texas manager Johnny Oates said. "The only thing more amazing is what Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have done."
With Randy Johnson, the Astros like their chances of reaching the World Series for the first time. Johnson went 10-1 after being traded in late July by Seattle, including 5-0 at the Astrodome.
"Yeah, he's got some pretty unbelievable stuff," Padres outfielder Steve Finley said. "But he's been beaten before. The last time he was in the playoffs, he got beat twice by Baltimore. People make it out to be an impossible task, but that's far from the truth."The Braves, in the postseason for a record seventh straight time, were 7-2 against the Giants but just 3-6 vs. the Cubs this year. John Smoltz will start for the Braves.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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