ATLANTA (Ticker) --
has been overshadowed by teammate
for most of the last 18 months. But in the biggest start of his career, the righthander pitched the
to their first postseason series win in nearly a century.
Wood allowed five hits in eight innings and throttled the best offense in the league for the second time in six days as the Cubs posted a 5-1 triumph over the
in Game Five of their National League Division Series.
Spectacular in winning Game One on Tuesday, Wood (2-0) was not as overpowering as he was in that contest but every bit as efficient. He scattered three singles, two doubles and two walks and struck out seven.
"I felt more comfortable today for some reason," Wood said. "I'm not sure exactly why. ... I wasn't really nervous, just really prepared to go out and pitch my game."
After Wood was pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the ninth, journeyman
closed out Chicago's first postseason series win since the 1908 World Series.
The victory also put the Cubs in the NL Championship Series for the first time since 1989. Chicago will host the wild card-winning
in a best-of-seven series beginning Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
"I'm happy for everybody - the Cubs organization and all the players, people of Chicago and I'm really happy for
," Cubs manager
said. "I'm especially happy for
because he could could not be here. This is like I never imagined."
"It's going to be a great series," Cubs right fielder
said. "We're getting ready for Tuesday. It's going to be exciting. We're going to find a plan to try to get to the next step."
The Cubs were able to oust the Braves behind their 1-2 tandem of Wood and Prior, who combined to win all three games. Considered a phenom in his Rookie of the Year campaign of 1998, Wood underwent arm surgery in April 1999. While he has been solid since returning, he has seen a lot of the spotlight stolen by Prior, who burst upon the scene much like Wood did.
"(Prior) has been awesome to watch pitch at his age and just go out and do what he has done down the stretch for us and in the postseason," Wood said. "It's been fun to watch."
"It is hard to do any better than those two have done," Baker added.
recognized the importance of Chicago's 1-2 punch.
"We failed to beat the two big guys one game out of three," Cox said. "That's what it would have taken, but that didn't happen."
Wood offered his take on the Cubs' reputation as lovable losers.
"We don't listen to it," he said. "We stay positive, and having Dusty helps. Hopefully, we're not going to hear too much more of that in the future."
The loss was the latest in a string of difficult playoff finishes for the Braves, who have reached the postseason an unprecedented 12 straight years but have just one championship to show for it. This Braves' squad faces major offseason free agency issues and could have a vastly differently look in 2004.
"Just knowing we have a tremendous team and to not make it happen again is just sick," Braves catcher
said. "It is very disappointing."
"Next year brings about change," Atlanta closer
added. "That's why this year was as important as it was. But I don't think this is a huge upset. On paper, yes, but they clicked."
Working on three days' rest, Atlanta starter
(0-1) did his best to keep his team in the game. The veteran lefthander surrendered runs in each of the first two innings but settled down.
With Chicago leading, 2-0, in the sixth, Hampton made the most costly mistake of the Braves' season, grooving a pitch that
hammered over the center field wall for a four-run cushion. It was the Cubs' only homer of the series with a man on base.
With Wood mowing down Atlanta, the four runs seemed like much more and the Braves went down without much of a fight.
Atlanta was unable to generate much because many of the key components of its lineup struggled against the Cubs' hard throwers.
"All year long we've relied so much on getting the first guy on and getting runs early, putting the pressure on," Sheffield said. "You can't get behind in the playoffs. Our offense made adjustments, but Kerry also made adjustments with his breaking ball."
Chicago jumped on Hampton for a run in the first as former Brave
doubled, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by
led off the second with a home run and the game remained 2-0 into the sixth. Hampton struck out
to start the inning, but Alou singled and Ramirez launched a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall.
"I think it was a changeup and I just tried to make contact with the ball and put it in play," Ramirez said. "It was huge."
The Braves pushed across their lone run in the bottom of the sixth. Furcal opened the inning with a walk,
singled and Sheffield lined an offering from Wood into shallow center field.
Lofton made a sliding catch, but the ball was ruled a trap. As Furcal scored, Lofton fired to second for a forceout. Sheffield also appeared to pass Giles on the play but was allowed to remain at first base.
The bad break proved moot when Wood got
to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
The Cubs tacked on a run in the ninth on pinch hitter
's bloop double to right. Goodwin was batting for Wood.
The decisive game drew a crowd of 54,357, a new team record for the Braves. The previous mark of 53,775 attended a game on April 8, 1974, the night
's career home run record.