After waiting all year for their offense to get on a roll, the Chicago Cubs thought it had finally arrived. And with perfect timing, no less.
They hit .299 in the first four games of the NL championship series, and had an NLCS-record 10 home runs. They outscored the Florida Marlins 33-19 as they took a 3-1 lead, one game shy of their first World Series appearance since 1945.
But as quickly as it appeared, Chicago's offense disappeared. Josh Beckett held the Cubs to just two hits and struck out 11 Sunday as the Marlins beat Chicago 4-0 to dodge elimination for at least two more days.
Now, the series is going back to Wrigley Field, and Mark Prior will start Game 6 on Tuesday night. Prior is 12-1 with a 1.55 ERA in 13 starts since returning from the disabled list Aug. 4, and he's already won two postseason games. When he started this year, the Cubs went 21-9.
If Prior falters, the Cubs will go with Kerry Wood in Game 7. That would be the same Kerry Wood who is 5-0 over his last six starts, including two playoff wins against the Atlanta Braves.
"We've got two games, we've got to win one," said Matt Clement, who won Game 4. "For them to get through u1, they've got to beat our best."
Meanwhile, in the American League, rain fell on the field at Fenway Park on Sunday, not a beloved 72-year-old coach.
Hostilities between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox took a weather-induced break Sunday, with a daylong downpour delaying Game 4 of the AL championship series a night. That followed an ugly game 3 in which benches cleared and Yankees coach Don Zimmer was thrown to the ground after attacking Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.
Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, issued four fines to the central combatants in New York's 4-3 win Saturday, penalizing Boston's Martinez and Manny Ramirez, and New York's Karim Garcia and Zimmer. While Watson didn't identify the amounts, Martinez was fined $50,000, Ramirez $25,000, Garcia $10,000 and Zimmer $5,000, according to a baseball executive who spoke on the condition he not be identified.
Martinez began the boorishness when he threw a pitch near Garcia's head that nicked his shoulder. Garcia then made a hard slide at second baseman Todd Walker, and Ramirez took offense to a pitch by Roger Clemens, walking toward the mound, bat in hand. The benches cleared and Zimmer lunged at Martinez, who grabbed the former Boston manager by the head and pushed him to the ground.
"I'm embarrassed at what happened," Zimmer said, fighting back tears as he apologized Sunday. "I'm embarrassed for the Yankees, the Red Sox, the fans, the umpires and my family."
Zimmer, in his 54th professional season, left the ballpark on a stretcher after the game and was taken to the hospital with a strained left groin. "I was hurting," the coach said.
Boston owner John Henry was pleased with Zimmer's contrite comments.
"I wouldn't mind seeing the same thing coming from our side," Henry said.
As the rain fell, police sought witnesses to a bullpen fight between two Yankees and a Red Sox employee before deciding whether to file assault charges.
The Red Sox said that two Boston police officers in the bullpen support the story of grounds crew worker Paul Williams, who contend Yankees Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia attacked him for cheering for the Red Sox.
Speaking before Game 4 was rained out Sunday, though, Nelson said Williams "got in my face" and instigated the fighting.
"I was basically defending myself.…I've been playing the game for 12 years. Don't you think I would know better than to attack somebody?" Nelson said.
Police spokesman Michael McCarthy was not sure how long the investigation would take.
Nelson said he was annoyed that Williams was cheering for the Red Sox while he was in the New York bullpen. "I told him to go over to the other side," Nelson said.
Williams said he only cheered for the Red Sox once.
"If that was poor taste or improper baseball etiquette or decorum, that's certainly something someone could question," Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg said. "Whether it merited an attack that had him in the hospital is certainly another story."
Steinberg said that Williams had cleat marks on his back and arm, and he was wearing a neck brace when he left the hospital Sunday morning.
The series resumes Monday night, with Mike Mussina trying to put the Yankees ahead 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and Tim Wakefield attempting to even it up for the Red Sox with more of his fluttering knuckleballs.
The Red Sox hoped the rainout would give them an advantage. In the pitching switches, New York's David Wells was pushed back to Game 5, and Boston's John Burkett probably will be dropped to a sixth game Wednesday in New York, if it's needed. Derek Lowe likely will oppose Wells on Tuesday at Fenway, where Lowe was 11-2 this year — he was just 6-5 on the road.
Kevin Hallinan, baseball's senior vice president of security, said protection will be increased Monday.
© 2003 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.