Cubs' Prior may be mystery to Marlins

Right-hander was on DL when teams met this year

NLCS notebook

Baseball Playoffs

October 08, 2003|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - Chicago Cubs right-hander Mark Prior didn't face the Florida Marlins this year, which could turn out to be an advantage when he takes the mound tonight in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field.

"Unfortunately, I didn't get to face them, because it was right when I went on the DL [disabled list]," Prior said yesterday. "I'll go back and watch game tapes. I think we have a tape of Jason Schmidt's game last week and what he did against them."

Opinions differ on whether pitchers or hitters are at an advantage when they face each other for the first time, but this one probably isn't a close call. Prior has been one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball since he returned from the DL, so it's hard to imagine the lack of familiarity doing anything but making it harder for batters.

The Marlins figure to take a basic approach - try to get on base in any fashion and exploit their decided edge in team speed. Prior figures to do what he has been doing all year - overpower batters and keep runners to a minimum.

Either way, that means NL stolen base leader Juan Pierre and No. 2 hitter Luis Castillo will be the players to watch tonight.

"They do run a lot," Prior said. "They're a different ballclub than Atlanta, and in some respects I think they're more dangerous because of those top two guys, and they kind of set the table for what they're going to do."

Prior allowed only 183 hits in 211 1/3 innings en route to an 18-6 season, so the Marlins will have their work cut out for them getting in position to run. When the Marlins do get on base, Prior thinks that the Cubs can control the running game.

"I'm not going to do anything special," he said. "Hopefully, we just catch them off guard. And I'm sure there might be some pitch-outs called from the bench, stuff like that, maybe to make them a little more hesitant."

Success follows Baker

Manager Dusty Baker stressed to Cubs fans in January that he was not "the messiah," but the team's performance in his first year in Chicago has people wondering what special quality allows him to have success wherever he goes.

"My name is still Dusty," he said.

Baker is a little sensitive about the perception that his main strength is the ability to motivate players and create a winning team chemistry. He is not as well-known for his technical skill.

"I'm to the point where I really don't care about what people say about me anymore," he said. " ... I'm always asked that question about [being a] messiah or do I pay attention to pitch counts or do I pay attention to numbers. I'm no different from any other manager."

Marlins are `other' team

The Marlins know that most of the baseball world wants to see the Cubs reach the World Series, but manager Jack McKeon said that his team has plenty of support.

"Everybody has their own favorites," he said. "A lot of people want to see the Cubs win. A lot of people want to see the Marlins win. We're rooting for the Marlins. Somebody here wants the Marlins to win."



Today Time/StarterLineW-L ERA

NL: Florida Penny (R) 8:18 14-10 4.19

at Chicago Prior (R) -210 19-6 2.37

AL: Boston Wakefield (R) 8:18 11-8 4.07

at New York Mussina (R) -190 17-9 3.41

Note: Statistics include postseason

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