CHICAGO (Ticker) -- On a record-setting offensive night at Wrigley Field, it was a guy that has hardly swung a bat lately that made the difference.
proved his hand is healthy, belting a pinch solo homer in the top of the 11th inning to give the
a wild 9-8 victory over the
in Game One of the National League Championship Series.
On a night when balls flew all over and out of Wrigley Field, Lowell provided the decisive blow, sending a 3-2 pitch from
(0-1) over the center field wall for his first career postseason homer.
"Very satisfying," said Lowell, who hit the 14th pinch homer in LCS history. "I think that's an understatement."
With the wind blowing out at Wrigley, the teams combined for 17 extra-base hits, including seven homers and four triples - all LCS records. The Marlins also established an NLCS mark with three homers in an inning.
"I don't know, it was a bad day for pitchers," Marlins starter
Of Chicago's NLCS-record nine extra-base hits, none was bigger than
's dramatic two-out, two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth that tied the game at 8-8 and sent the crowd of 39,567 into hysterics.
"I know they had a plan to pitch me, so I just stayed patient and waited for the mistake," Sosa said.
But the excitement was short-lived as Lowell put a ball into the cage that lies atop the ivy-covered wall at Wrigley to lead off the 11th. It was his first home run in four career postseason at-bats.
"It was weird," he said. "This was an exciting game. Two outs in the ninth with Sammy up, he came through for the crowd. It was like a boxing match."
It was the sweetest homer of Lowell's career, considering he missed all but one game in the final month of the season with a broken left hand and lost his starting third base job to rookie
A two-time All-Star, Lowell hit a career-high 32 home runs in the regular season but was hit with a pitch from Montreal's
on August 30 and didn't play again until the final game of the year.
"My goal was to at least see if I could swing that last day and keep getting better through batting practice," he said. "I think things worked out very well."
also homered and collected five RBI for the Marlins, who stole home field advantage from the Cubs on a mild night on the North Side and moved a step closer to their second World Series appearance.
The Marlins earned the wild card in the final week of the season, then knocked off the heavily favored
San Francisco Giants
in four games in the Division Series, despite losing the opener.
Trying to win their first World Series title since 1908, the NL Central Division champion Cubs relinquished an early four-run lead before rallying from a pair of two-run deficits. They were hosting their first NLCS game since 1989.
"That was a hell of a game," said Cubs manager
, whose team hosts Game Two on Wednesday. "It's sad we came out on the short end. Very disheartening, actually."
(1-0) allowed Sosa's homer but pitched a perfect 10th and picked up the win.
fired a flawless 11th for his first save of the postseason.
Both starters were ineffective. The Cubs jumped on Beckett in the bottom of the first, grabbing a 4-0 lead on an RBI triple by
, a two-run homer from
and an RBI double by
Making his second career postseason start - and first bad one - Beckett surrendered six runs and eight hits while walking one and striking out five in 6 1/3 innings.
"I think in the first inning, I tried to do to much, and they hit them," the hard-throwing righthander said.
wasn't any better. He coughed up the four-run lead in the third, allowing an LCS-record three homers. Rodriguez started it with a three-run blast and Cabrera and
added back-to-back solo shots.
"It was a huge momentum swing, being down 4-0 and going up 5-4," Lowell said. "And it just kept going back and forth."
Stumbling through his second straight playoff outing, Zambrano gave up six runs and nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts in six innings.
"I wasn't very good today," the sinker-balling righthander said. "They hit a lot of pitches, they made the adjustment and they hit it out of the ballpark."
lofted a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth for a 6-4 lead. Beckett had settled down before surrendering an opposite-field two-run homer to Gonzalez in the bottom of the frame, which tied it at 6-6.
Over the next two innings, Florida's
made a pair of dazzling plays at shortstop. In the seventh, he robbed Sosa of a go-ahead RBI hit by moving to his left to snare a one-hopper - going to his knees, spinning and throwing to first.
An inning later, Gonzalez slid on his knees in the hole between third base and shortstop, fielded the ball and threw a one-hopper to second base for a forceout while his momentum carried him toward the outfield grass.
But second base umpire Fieldin Culbreth immediately called Pierre safe, saying Grudzielanek bobbled the ball while trying to apply the tag. Replays appeared to prove Culbreth correct.
"Well, the umpire was correct," Baker said.
Rodriguez followed by belting a 1-2 pitch past a diving Grudzielanek, allowing two runs to score. The hit gave Rodriguez 11 RBI in five games this postseason.
The Cubs worked out of further trouble but were down to their last out when Sosa stepped to the plate in the ninth. He swung through a 1-0 pitch before depositing a hanging slider onto the middle of Waveland Avenue beyond the left field wall.
"It was full of emotional twists," Baker said. "I'm sure everybody is emotionally exhausted at this point."
After both teams went in order in the 10th, Lowell started the 11th with the decisive homer. McKeon knew he deserved it.
"We knew he was capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, and he did it," McKeon said. "It couldn't happen to a greater guy."