MIAMI (Ticker) --
had a big game and has the city of Chicago on the verge of a big party.
Ramirez homered twice, including a first-inning grand slam, and tied a National League Championship Series record with six RBI as the
, 8-3, and moved within a win of their first World Series appearance since 1945.
Ramirez, a trade dealine acquisition who has four postseason home runs, staked former Marlin
(1-1) to an early cushion by tucking a 2-2 pitch from Florida rookie
(0-1) just inside the left field foul pole with the bases full.
The first grand slam in NLCS play in exactly five years also was the first in Cubs' postseason history.
The Cubs third baseman added a run-scoring single in the third and matched
's NLCS record for RBI with a solo homer in the seventh.
"I had these kinds of nights before, but this night is special because it puts us so close to the Series," Ramirez said. "This is my best game ever and it came in such a clutch situation."
"He is the kind of guy who gets on a roll and becomes almost unstoppable," Cubs leadoff hitter
said. "He has tons of potential and is still a young guy."
Clement cruised with the early lead and exacted a measure of revenge. On a pitching staff loaded with promising arms, Florida felt it could afford to trade Clement just before the start of the 2002 season. The Marlins got Willis in the deal.
Clement allowed three runs and five hits in 7 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out five.
"We've got to keep our focus and think of it as one more win and not get ahead of ourselves," Clement said. "What it will mean to the city of Chicago and to the Cubs fans and to the many Cubs players that have suffered over the years, it would be tremendous."
As for the revenge aspect, he said, "It means nothing more than having the chance to succeed in a different city. It worked out well for me and it worked out well for Dontrelle. ... Obviously, you want to beat your old team, but helping to get us to the World Series is a lot more motivation."
Willis, a phenom who helped carry Florida to the wild card berth, was tagged for six runs in 2 1/3 innings. In three postseason outings, the 21-year-old lefthander has allowed 11 earned runs and 17 runners in eight innings.
"I didn't get the job done," Willis said. "I pitched from behind. ... For me, personally, I felt like I could have went out there and thrown better, but I went out there and gave it my all, so I left everything out on the field. It wasn't enough."
Chicago can clinch its first World Series berth in 58 years on Sunday with a win in Game Five.
, who was awful in Game One for the Cubs, will get the chance to secure the Fall Classic berth. The Marlins hope that ace
can force the series back to Chicago for Game Six.
"It's not over yet, big-time," Cubs manager
said. "They won the first one and we won the last three. You've got to go out there and just win it. They're not going to give it to you. They're not going to give up, that's for sure. You can't think about it until it's over, until you cross that finish line. That's our next step, to cross the finish line. It does feel better to be up 3-1 than down 3-1."
"It's going to be great for the fans out there," Ramirez said. "We haven't won in 95 years. It's going to be crazy out there. They deserve it. And like I say, they're great fans and they deserve it."
Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, only three teams have rallied from a 3-1 series deficit.
"It's a seven-game series and this is a big challenge," Florida manager Jack McKeon said. "But I think if you go back to the record books, there's a lot of clubs that came back from three games. We're not out. We're going to be battling tomorrow night. We have a good pitcher going tomorrow night."
"It's a tough loss," Florida first baseman
conceded. "We dug ourselves a hole, that's for sure. But it's not over, so we keep fighting. ... It's going to be a real uphill battle, but we need to keep going."
Willis put the Marlins on the brink of elimination by not finding the strike zone in the first inning. Lofton opened the game by walking on a 3-2 pitch.
struck out, but
both walked on four pitches.
Ramirez lofted a fly ball to left that was curling toward the foul pole. The Cubs' slugger walked out of the batter's box, attempting to use body English to keep the ball fair. As the ball disappeared into the stands, the Cubs celebrated on the bases and in the dugout.
"He walked three guys before the play," Ramirez said. "I just wanted to put it in play, and I got the run in."
McKeon knew that falling behind batters eventually prove costly for Willis.
"That's his problem since the All-Star Game, bases on balls and getting behind on hitters and having to come in," McKeon said. "That's his biggest problem, staying behind hitters."
"Maybe I was a little too excited, rushing myself probably a little more than I should," Willis said. "That's baseball. ... Hopefully, I'll get another chance to throw against them. Hopefully, we'll win tomorrow and I'll get another chance in Chicago to come out of the bullpen or whatever."
The Cubs have outscored opponents, 14-1, in the opening inning this postseason.
had RBI singles in the third as the game turned into a rout.
Alou made it 7-0 in the fourth with a single to right that scored Lofton.
Adding insult to injury, Clement cruised through four innings. With the big lead, he got a bit sloppy in the fifth and allowed two runs but got
on a flyout to end the inning.
Ramirez homered off
with one out in the seventh and an RBI double by Florida's
in the eighth capped the scoring.
The game drew an NLCS-record 65,829 fans. The previous mark was 65,476 at Veteran Stadium in 1980 for the matchup between Philadelphia and Houston.