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'W' ends wacky week for Cubs
From the time Sammy Sosa's bat split into pieces Tuesday night until Joe Borowski picked off Charles Gipson for the final out in Sunday's 8-7 win over the New York Yankees, the Cubs spent six straight days in the spin cycle.
They survived the corked-bat controversy, Hee Seop Choi's scary concussion and the Roger Clemens road show with barely a moment to contemplate the big picture.
"I don't think you could pack an entire season into what's happened this week," said Mark Prior, Sunday's winning pitcher. "The unfortunate incident on Tuesday night, and basically when the Yankees come to town it's a circus.
"The fans were great all three of these games. With everything wrapped up in [Saturday's] game with Clemens and Woody, and Hee Seop unfortunately going down, we kind of put that all away. This team has a lot of heart. I don't think anyone can question that anymore."
After taking two of three from the Yankees, the second-best road team in the majors, have the Cubs reached a turning point in their season?
"You don't know if this is a defining moment or a turning point until down the road," manager Dusty Baker said. "It's hard to say it's a turning point when you're in the middle of chaos. When you're in the middle of chaos, man, all you see is that chaos. It's like being in a whirlwind. You try to slow it down and you're trying to keep your ship pointed in the right direction."
The Cubs finished the 12-game homestand with a 6-6 record, remaining one game behind Houston in the National League Central Division. Prior (7-2) allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out 10 and walking one. Moises Alou's three-run homer off Andy Pettitte in the first and Sammy Sosa's 2,000th career hit in the seventh capped off one of the wackiest weeks in Cub history.
"I looked at the moon [Saturday] and it was like a half-moon," Baker said. "I'm a full-moon man. Things seem to go well with me when the moon is full. I'm trying to find a reason for the week and it was like, `Oh, that's why--we're on the dark side of the moon.' Maybe this new moon is going to be great. I'm trying to find anything I can."
The Yankees trailed 6-0 after two and 8-3 after seven, but pulled to within a run on Jorge Posada's two-run single off Borowski in the ninth. Baker had lefty Mark Guthrie warming up, but Borowski retired Robin Ventura, who had homered earlier, on a fly to right and picked off pinch-runner Gipson with two strikes on Raul Mondesi, sending the crowd of 39,341 into delirium.
The Cubs knocked Pettitte out after only 1 2/3 innings.
"That was a big win for us, for the city of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere," Baker said. "People certainly got their money's worth and had a good time."
Gipson, who is very fast, was with the Cubs in spring training but was cut when they decided to keep Tom Goodwin.
"The way they had their lineup stacked, left-right, they make you make those tough decisions," Baker said. "I was telling Joe Morgan the hard part of facing the Yankees with the talent they have, it's like they've got 30 guys over there to your 25."
The Yankees weren't just a measuring stick for the Cubs, but beating Roger Clemens and Pettitte back-to-back could be jump-start a struggling offense.
"When you beat the best, you've got to feel great," Sosa said.
Prior wasn't dominant, but he allowed only four hits until the Yankees' two-run sixth, his final inning. Though he's no fan of interleague play, Prior conceded the Yankees-Cubs series was about as good as it gets.
"This is what they intended it to be like," he said. "I don't think there was anywhere in the country that had this much emotion, this much intensity in three ballgames. I've never been a part of anything like this in baseball. The only thing I could even dream of topping it would be playing in a World Series."