Sosa far from happy in fourth when pitch sails under his chin

Memories of beanings, Cabrera incident trigger harsh words vs. Beckett

Baseball Playoffs

NLCS notebook

October 13, 2003|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - Compared to the running battle between the Red Sox and Yankees, the National League Championship Series has been a fairly civil war, but there was a moment in the fourth inning yesterday when it looked as if tempers might bubble over the way they did at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Marlins starting pitcher Josh Beckett buzzed Sammy Sosa under the chin with a first-pitch fastball, prompting the Cubs' slugger to walk out in front of the mound to voice his displeasure.

No hostilities ensued, but Sosa obviously felt at the moment that the pitch was intentional - perhaps in retaliation for a Carlos Zambrano pitch that hit Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera the inning before.

He also is only a few months removed from a very scary incident during the regular season, when Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Soloman Torres shattered his batting helmet with a pitch.

"I think, because of what happened the inning before, that was my reaction," a subdued Sosa said after the game. "I've been hit in the head a couple of times, and I don't like it anymore."

The Cabrera pitch could not have been a purpose pitch, however, since the Marlins had two runners on base at the time. Zambrano would not have willingly put himself in a bases-loaded jam.

Beckett said later that he was shocked Sosa reacted the way that he did.

"He overreacted a lot," Beckett said. "I don't know really 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. I was so surprised I had to shoot something else back at him. It was kind of baffling to me, really."

Exception on praise

Just about everyone in the Cubs' clubhouse tipped their caps to Beckett after the game ... except Sosa.

When someone asked him the difference between the Beckett that gave up four runs in the first inning of Game 1 and the guy who stifled the Cubs for nine innings yesterday.

Sosa hinted it was more a question of lighting than getting lit up.

"That game was at 7:05," Sosa said. "This one was at 4 o'clock. You can see the ball better at 7:05."

Pavano in Game 6

Marlins manager Jack McKeon juggled his starting rotation yesterday, replacing Game 2 starter Brad Penny with right-hander Carl Pavano for Game 6.

"Pavano matches up good against the Cubs," McKeon said, "and he's pitched extremely good against the Cubs. And we talked to the coaches and we decided this is the way we're going to go."

Of course, if that were true, McKeon would not have waited until the sixth game of the series to start Pavano, but he didn't want to say anything negative about Penny, who got hit very hard at Wrigley Field in Game 2.

Cabrera cleanup

McKeon tweaked his lineup again yesterday, moving rookie third baseman Miguel Cabrera into the cleanup spot normally occupied by first baseman Derrek Lee.

"Just change it around a little bit; nothing to read into it," McKeon explained. "We've done this before; just move a guy around. Maybe he'll get up in a situation and do some damage."

The logic is difficult to dispute. Cabrera entered yesterday's game with a .344 postseason batting average, second only to No. 3 hitter Ivan Rodriguez. Lee came in batting just .206, with one homer and three RBIs.

Playing hard

Cubs manager Dusty Baker is credited with creating a can-do attitude in the team's clubhouse after a 95-loss season in 2002, but he said yesterday that he didn't set his sights too high when he jumped from the pennant-winning Giants to the Cubs.

"Number one was having a winning season," he said. "How much winning, I didn't know and nobody knew, because I really didn't know, other than a few guys here, the personnel we had here.

"So my main thing was to come here and win, number one, and not put any unrealistic numbers or goals on it."

The issue, he said, was more how the team played than how many games it won.

"If you play hard every day and play good, hard baseball every day, you have a chance to win more games than most teams, because most teams I've found won't play hard every day," Baker said. "I tell my guys we've got to play hard seven days a week."

Flash from past

Singer Jose Feliciano sang the national anthem, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, just as he did when he sparked controversy with his nontraditional rendition at the 1968 World Series in Detroit.

"The reason I created a stir was because I did it with feeling," said Feliciano, who was then 23. "I sang it with soul. I thought, `Jose, you've got a great opportunity to express what you feel for America.' "

The country has changed a lot since then. Feliciano's anthem was well received by the large crowd at Pro Player Stadium.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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