Playoff Series: Game 4 of 5

Chi Cubs leads 3-2 (as of 10/4)

Game 1: Tuesday, September 30
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Game 2: Wednesday, October 1
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Game 3: Friday, October 3
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Game 4: Saturday, October 4
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Game 5: Sunday, October 5
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Braves 6


Cubs 4


    4:00 PM ET, October 4, 2003

    Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois 

    123456789 R H E
    ATL 000130020 6 12 0
    CHC 001001011 4 10 0

    W: R. Ortiz (1-1)

    L: M. Clement (0-1)

    S: J. Smoltz (1)

    Chipper Jones hits 2 two-run HRs

    CHICAGO (AP) -- Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves sat in the clubhouse before the game, feeling about as desperate as they had in a long time.

    The powerful offense that had carried them in the regular season had evaporated, and they were at the brink of elimination in what would be yet another postseason disappointment. Even worse, Gary Sheffield was out of the lineup, his left hand still too sore and swollen to play.

    Game 4 breakdown
    Unsung Hero
    Julio Franco. Making his first start of the series, Franco -- the ageless one -- made the most of his opportunity as he went 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.

    Matt Clement struggled with his command throughout and suffered because of it. Not only did he give up four runs on eight hits, but he also issued four walks. Clement threw 86 pitches, 51 of which for strikes. Very much a poor ball/strike ratio.

    Turning Point
    With the score tied at 1-1, Rafael Furcal singled to lead off the top of the fifth inning. Marcus Giles then hit into a fielder's choice, bringing Chipper Jones to the plate. Jones then proceeded to deposit a Clement offering over the center-field wall, giving the Braves a 3-1 lead.

    It Figures
    Jones was a combined 1-for-11 through the first three games of the series. He went on to hit a pair of two-run home runs. End result: His slump is over.

    On Deck
    A fifth and deciding game back at Turner Field in Atlanta. Game 1 winner Kerry Wood will start for the Cubs. Wood was masterful in the opener, striking out 11 while allowing only two hits in 7 1/3 innings. Mike Hampton will get the start for the Braves, and he will do so on three days' rest. Hampton pitched well for the Braves in Game 2 as he struck out nine while allowing only two runs in six innings.

    "We knew it was basically win this game or take a vacation -- a long one," Jones said. "It would have been a real rough winter for us."

    But winter is still a few weeks away, and the Braves showed they had some big hits left. Jones ended his postseason slump with a two-run homer from each side of the plate, and Russ Ortiz pitched well on three days' rest as the Braves defeated the Cubs 6-4 Saturday.

    With Wrigley Field fans on edge and the streets of Chicago rocking in anticipation of the Cubs winning their first postseason series since 1908, the Braves sent this NL playoff back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5.

    Sammy Sosa made them sweat it out right down to the final swing, though.

    With a run already in and a runner on second, Sosa came up with two outs for a tense matchup against star closer John Smoltz. On a full-count pitch, Sosa took a hopeful hop as his bid for a tying, two-run homer left the bat.

    "When he made contact, my heart jumped into my throat," Jones said. "Wouldn't the roof come off this place if Sammy were to hit a two-run homer off Smoltzie in that situation?"

    But center fielder Andruw Jones calmly caught the ball on the edge of the warning track for the last out.

    "The swing I had was good, but it wasn't quite a full swing," Sosa said. "But I thought I had it for a second."

    Smoltz, who appeared to be grimacing in pain during the at-bat, bent over and put his hands on his knees after holding on for a save.

    Eric Karros hit two homers for the Cubs, but both were solo shots.

    So the series now goes back to Atlanta on Sunday night. Mike Hampton will try to duplicate Ortiz's effort, facing Kerry Wood on three days' rest.

    The winner will host Florida in the opener of the NLCS on Tuesday.

    "All year long we've put ourselves in a corner many different times and we've been able to respond," Karros said. "We're looking forward to doing that tomorrow."

    The Braves led the NL in batting average (.284), homers (a franchise-record 235) and runs (907, another club mark) this year. But those big bats were nowhere to be found once the postseason began.

    Atlanta hit just .191 in the first three games of the series and had only three extra-base hits. The struggles of the Joneses and Sheffield were the most glaring, with the 3-4-5 hitters combining for three hits through the first three games.

    But with Sheffield on the bench -- he was hit in the left hand by Mark Prior's pitch Friday night -- Atlanta manager Bobby Cox moved Chipper Jones back up to his old No. 3 spot, and he responded.

    "That's where I feel most comfortable," Chipper Jones said. "I've never seen myself as a No. 4 hitter, but ... that makes our team better. Any chance I hit in the three hole, all those guys cherish moving up one spot in the lineup and want to make the most of it."

    Batting left-handed in the fifth inning, he sent Matt Clement's 1-0 pitch arching toward left-center for a 3-1 lead.

    The crowd of 39,983 knew the ball was gone even before it landed in the seats, falling so silent a goat could have been heard bleating.

    He wasn't done, either. Batting right-handed in the eighth inning against Mark Guthrie, he put a 3-2 pitch into almost the same spot in left-center.

    "It's actually a matter of time before they all break out like that," Cox said.

    Every Atlanta starter reached base at least once, and Andruw Jones and Darren Bragg were the only ones without a hit. But Bragg, starting in place of Sheffield, had a broken-bat fielder's choice in the fifth to score Atlanta's first run and tie it at 1.

    Even 40-something Julio Franco, who started for a struggling Robert Fick, was an offensive juggernaut. Franco went 3-for-4 with a walk and scored a run.

    The Cubs, meanwhile, left eight on base, including a runner in scoring position in each of the first five innings.

    "We had some opportunities and were not able to take advantage of them," Karros said. "We got some good at-bats."

    Karros also took a beating. In the eighth inning, he caught a throw to first and still had his arm raised when pinch-hitter Fick came barreling at him and threw a forearm that was worthy of all-star wrestling.

    The blow knocked the ball and glove free, nearly injuring Karros.

    "It was an interesting running technique, that's a polite way to put it," Karros said. "He's pretty close to clotheslining me, too."

    Karros grimaced in pain as plate umpire Larry Young came up the line to call Fick out.

    "It's an elimination game and you've got to do what you've got to do," Fick said in a profanity-laced explanation. "I'm not saying I did it on purpose. But it's ... baseball."

    Karros stayed in the game and homered in the eighth. Reliever Kyle Farnsworth left with a jammed kneecap after slipping while fielding the ball. It wasn't certain if he would be available Sunday.

    It all added up to more disappointment for Cubs fans, who were giddy at the prospect of their beloved team finally ending their frustration. Someone even brought a goat onto the field before the game.

    According to local legend, the owner of a Chicago bar put a curse on the Cubs when he and his goat were turned away from a 1945 World Series game between the Cubs and Detroit Tigers. The Cubs have endured more than 50 years of futility since.

    "When this series started ... deep down in my heart, I didn't want to admit it, but I thought it was going to go five games," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "So we've just got to go get it done in Atlanta."

    Game notes

    Bernie Williams was the first player to homer from both sides in a postseason game, doing it for the Yankees in 1995 against Seattle. ... Karros tied the Cubs record for most homers in a postseason game. Gary Matthews also had two in 1984 against San Diego.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press