Cubs almost there

Oct 14, 2003 9:44 AM

Chicago’s Cubs are oh-so-close to returning to the World Series for the first time in nearly six decades, but in typical fashion their diehard fans have to put up with even more angst and anxiety.

Florida won Game 5 on Sunday to narrow the Cubs lead to 3-2 in the best 4-of-7 with the teams resuming play Tuesday evening in Chicago.

With Mark Prior scheduled to start Game 6 and Kerry Wood slated for a potential Game 7, the Cubs are still prohibitive favorites to advance. Wood and Prior made 14 back to back starts this season and Cubs never were swept. Still, things don’t come easy to the fans of the Windy City.

Tempers flared and things got out of control in Saturday’s Game 3 of the ALCS between Boston and the New York Yankees before Sunday’s game was rained out. That postponement and the World Series beginning this Saturday, means the ALCS could be played over four straight days if the series goes the full seven games.

That could give the Cubs the added edge of rest if they do wrap up the NLCS in six. The Marlins would need seven, so any edge they might enjoy would be less.

The Yankees have four quality starters in Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells and are far better situated to deal with a prolonged ALCS and a quick start to the World Series than the Red Sox. The Yanks still remain the pick to eliminate Boston in 6.

Here are four possible World Series match ups. The first two games and, if necessary, the final two, are at the AL champ by virtue of the All-Star Game victory.

Cubs vs. Yanks: This might be the most closely contested series of the four. Wood and Prior match up nicely against the Yankees. Because the starters are capable of going deep into games the UNDER is more likely to be profitable than the OVER. Wind conditions in Chicago could have a major impact on setting the totals.

Should Prior or Wood be underdogs at Yankee Stadium either is worth a play. Similarly, the Yankees are playable in any game in which they are dogs, including against Prior and Wood. Overall the Yankees have the better talent and clearly the best closer in Mariano Rivera. The Cubs did take two of three games when these teams met in Chicago in June. The two wins were by Prior and Wood. YANKS in 6.

Marlins vs. Yanks: Although the Marlins are now a long shot to win the NLCS their credentials cannot be sold short. They have a more balanced starting rotation than the Cubs and could actually give the Yankees more competition. The offense is underrated and catcher Ivan Rodriquez is having a huge post season.

Florida starter Josh Beckett can be played as an underdog at home or on the road and the Marlins can be bet as a home underdog in Games 3 and 4 if they lose the first two games in New York. For totals posted below 9, go OVER. If above 9, go UNDER. Pass if it is on 9. Our pick, YANKS in 7.

Cubs vs. Red Sox: This is the series that is likely the one most favored by baseball fans outside of New York and Florida. The rich tradition of both franchises, marked by the lengthy drought since each won a World Series nearly a century ago, bring many compelling stories to this match up. For the winner a century of demons will be exorcised. The Cubs rate the edge on the strength of their overall starting rotation which likely keeps their bullpen fresher.

Boston’s Pedro Martinez does not enjoy a significant edge over Chicago’s Prior and Wood. This match up is also compelling because of the ballparks ”” Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park. Despite the presence of those three strong hurlers ”” which likely give us lower totals ”” the preference throughout this series would be OVER. The Cubs would be playable as dogs in Games 1 and 2 and stand a great chance to win at least one. Our pick, CUBS in 6.

Marlins vs. Red Sox: The least attractive of the four and the one most unlikely to occur. Florida actually matches up well and a potential Game 1 of Beckett against Martinez is juicy. Florida rates the pitching edge while Boston gets the edge at the plate. These teams met in the regular season in three amazing games, two of which were won by Boston. All three easily went OVER and produced an average of 23 runs per game.

That is not a typo. Boston won 25-8 and 11-7 sandwiched around Florida’s 10-9 win in the late June series played in Boston. The OVER would again be a good play in games at Fenway. The UNDER would be preferred in games in Florida. The Marlins are also a good play as a dog in Game 1 and also for Game 2 if they lost the opener. Overall talent is with the Red Sox. Our pick, RED SOX in 6.