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Updated: Monday, October 13, 2003 12:05 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
Chicago Cubs
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
0 2 0
Florida Marlins
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
4 8 0
W Beckett (1-1)
L Zambrano (0-1)
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FLORIDA 4, CHICAGO CUBS 0
 

MIAMI (Ticker) -- What does Josh Beckett have in common with Babe Ruth ? Plenty, as far as the Chicago Cubs are concerned.

Beckett struck out 11 in a sparkling two-hitter as the Florida Marlins stayed alive in the National League Championship Series with a 4-0 victory over the Cubs, who were denied their first World Series trip in 58 years.

Beckett silenced the booming bats of the Cubs, who hit .299 with 10 homers through the first four games of the series, winning three in a row after dropping the opener and pushing the Marlins to the brink of elimination.

"We needed a good outing from our starter," Beckett said. "I knew that going in they had roughed us up quite a bit. We needed to pitch better; that's all there is to it."

"He's a kid who sometimes talks a lot, but today he talked the talk and he walked the walk," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "He did an outstanding job. That's the best game I saw him pitch all year."

A 23-year-old righthander who was pounded for six runs in Game One, Beckett was nearly untouchable. Using a fastball that was topping out near 100 miles per hour, he held the Cubs hitless until Alex Gonzalez lifted a flare into right-center field with two out in the fifth.

"Josh was outstanding," Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell said. "His stuff was electrifying. He was hitting the spots, big pitches in big situations. It was big."

Beckett (1-0) also gave up Moises Alou 's seventh-inning single and walked one batter in the first complete game and shutout of his career.

"You get a little adrenaline going, but you've got to control it," Beckett said. "It's got to be controlled, controlled adrenaline. More is sometimes less, and less is more."

"This was a complete performance by him," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "This guy is one of the finest young pitchers in the game."

Beckett tossed the third two-hit shutout in NLCS history and the first since San Francisco's Dave Dravecky did in St. Louis in 1987. Jon Matlack of the New York Mets shut down Cincinnati in 1973.

"He got ahead all the time," Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "He mixed it up with fastballs and changeups."

Looking for their first World Series trip since 1945, the Cubs instead were blanked in a postseason game for the first time since the 1918 World Series against Boston, when Ruth did it.

Lowell, Rodriguez and Jeff Conine homered for the Marlins, who return to Chicago with a daunting task. To reach the World Series, they must get past Mark Prior and Kerry Wood , who have been dominant in the postseason.

For the second time in the series, Florida was able to solve Chicago starter Carlos Zambrano (0-1), who gave up two runs, five hits and four walks in five innings. He struck out five but also uncorked a wild pitch and hit a batter, throwing 115 pitches.

The emotional Zambrano worked out of bases-loaded jams in the third and fourth innings but was not as fortunate in the fifth. Rookie Miguel Cabrera walked between outs and Lowell launched a 1-0 pitch into the left field seats for all the runs Beckett would need.

"The last few games, I got in a rhythm that I'm more familiar with coming off the bench," said Lowell, who hardly played in the Division Series but won Game One of this matchup with an extra-inning homer. "I'm feeling good at the plate."

Meanwhile, Beckett was cruising. His biggest problem was a high and tight pitch to Sammy Sosa in the fourth that got the Cubs slugger a bit animated as he was restrained by Rodriguez. Once tempers settled, Sosa struck out looking.

"He overreacted a lot," Beckett said. "I don't know what else to say. I don't know what he was trying to do - trying to pull a Boston Red Sox -Yankees thing? I don't know."

"It was just a reaction," said Sosa, who was 0-for-4. "He (Rodriguez) told me it was unintentional and that it just got away from him and I believe that. The rest of the game was OK so it was just something that came with the moment."

Rodriguez homered off Dave Veres in the seventh. He has hit safely in every playoff game and has eight RBI in the series, one shy of the club mark set by Alou in the 1997 World Series.

Conine connected off Mike Remlinger in the eighth.

Beckett finished his masterpice by getting Sosa to ground out to shortstop.

"He didn't try to come at us and overpower us like he did the first game," said Cubs second baseman Mark Grudzielanek , who was 0-fo-4 with a strikeout. "He mixed it up very well. He just kept us off balance and kept us guessing about what he would throw in certain situations."


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