Tuesday will mark 20 months since that fateful day at Wrigley Field when the Florida Marlins scored eight runs in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.
That game-turning, stomach-churning, 27-minute stretch of baseball may be one of the most agonizing events in the Cubs' 129-year history.
But two seasons removed from the heartache, Florida now seems like just another opponent on the Cubs schedule.
Manager Dusty Baker said Monday there really is no rivalry to speak of between the teams.
"I see them as a very good team we have to beat," Baker said. "I don't live in the past like that. I care not to re-live the past hurt or the pain of that time. They beat us. They took it from us."
But Baker and the Cubs were forced to relive the past Monday when Florida posted a seven-run fifth inning as it cruised to a 9-1 victory before a crowd of 38,708 at Wrigley.
Florida ace Dontrelle Willis won his major-league leading 11th game, limiting the Cubs to one run on seven hits through seven innings, and contributed two singles during the Marlins' fifth.
Cubs rookie left-hander John Koronka (1-2) may have cost himself another start, allowing six runs on seven hits and three walks in 41/3 innings.
"Obviously I didn't make as many good pitches as I needed to," Koronka said.
Koronka entered the fifth inning with a 1-1 tie after Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez hit back-to-back doubles in the fourth. But he gave up four singles and a walk in a six-batter span to start the fifth, departing with the bases loaded and the Cubs down 3-1.
"It's a faster game up here," Koronka said. "Things happen up here a lot quicker [than Triple-A]. You make a mistake and things are going to hurt you real fast up here."
Joe Borowski replaced Koronka and suffered through his second straight poor outing, giving up a pair of two-run doubles to Paul Lo Duca and Alex Gonzalez before Willis' RBI single made it 8-1.
Willis (11-2), the former Cubs prospect, lowered his earned-run average to 2.06, second-best in the National League behind Roger Clemens' 1.64. His career record with the Marlins is 35-19, a .648 winning percentage.
"He definitely has gotten a lot better since the last time I faced him," catcher Michael Barrett said. "He mixed up his speeds more than anything else. That kept us frustrated and unable to get any runs today."
Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield shut down the Cubs Sunday night and Baker maintained that facing a talented pitcher like Willis, with his high leg kick, was even more daunting after seeing Wakefield.
"It's especially challenging after you see a knuckleballer," Baker said. "And Dontrelle is kind of an old school ballplayer, with an old school windup. Now a lot of guys are worried about arm slot and hurting themselves. There's probably more deception in his windup than we're going to see."
The Cubs were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position Monday and have scored two runs in their last two games after scoring 21 in the first two games of the Boston series. They now have lost two straight games after winning 12 of 15, and it doesn't get any easier on Tuesday when Josh Beckett faces Sergio Mitre.
"This whole staff is a challenge," Baker said. "When you're facing Dontrelle tonight and then Beckett [on Tuesday and A.J.] Burnett the next day, that's about as good a challenge as it gets."
Baker wouldn't say whether Koronka would get another start. Jerome Williams, acquired in the LaTroy Hawkins deal, is pitching well at Triple-A Iowa. Kerry Wood is a possibility to return by the City Series against the Sox on June 24.
"Sooner or later we're going to get our horses back," Baker said. "But in the meantime, we have to do whatever we can to win some ballgames."
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