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2000’s Week: Cubs clinch division

4 years agoStaff Report

Revisit the 21st Century to when the Cubs cliched the division title against the Pirates in 2003. 2000’s Week, proudly presented by Prevagen, continues Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Marquee Sports Network.

Sept. 27, 2003: Cubs beat the Pirates to clinch division title

Dusty Baker was in his first season as the North Siders manager helped motivate this club to an 88-win season. Baker had managed the San Francisco Giants to the World Series and was nine outs from winning the Fall Classic before an implosion by his bullpen. Baker and the Giants lost in seven games and the feisty competitor was ready for a new challenge.

GM Jim Hendry fleeced the Pirates twice in huge trades, acquiring third baseman Aramis Ramirez and leadoff man/centerfielder Kenny Lofton in separate deals.

The Cubs had not won a division in 14 years and their magic number was 3 when they were forced to play a doubleheader on this Saturday due to a rainout on the previous day. On Baker’s staff, he had three young aces in Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano. All these right-handed pitchers were 26 years old or younger to go along with Matt Clement, who pitched the decisive Game 2 of this twin bill.

Houston was trailing the Cubs with Games 160 and 161 to play on this fall afternoon. Cubs ace Mark Prior was the starter for Game 1 and he dominated the Bucs in a 4-2 victory. Prior won his career-best 18th game, going 6.2 innings and allowing 7 hits while striking out 10 batters. Kyle Farnsworth and Cubs closer Joe Borowski shut it down from there.

Craig Wilson gave Pittsburgh the lead with a solo home run in the 4th inning. The Cubs loaded the base with no outs in the bottom of the inning and scored twice. Sammy Sosa and Rob Mackowiak supplied RBIs in the next two innings setting up the drama of Game 2.

Clement was up to the task as the Cubs dominated from jump street after a Sosa 1st-inning home run (his 40th of the season). This was also the first division championship ever cliched at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. (Also the first-ever Central division title after the leagues were divided into three divisions.) The Cubs won the division by one game moving on to face Atlanta in the NLDS.

“We never gave up,” Sosa said after the Game 2 clincher. “The whole team came through together. We just stayed together and Dusty did an unbelievable job. For us to win this in Chicago is like a dream come true.”

Did you know 

  • In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq with a marketing theme called “Operation Iraqi freedom.” The country was mired in this episode for another seven
  • The big movies in 2003 were “Finding Nemo” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
  • Juan Catalan was cleared of murder charges because footage of him and his daughter at an LA Dodgers appeared in Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The murder took place some 20 miles from the crime scene at the time of the murder.
  • “The Bartman Game” crushed the hopes of the Cubs going to the World Series.

Click here to see the full schedule of 2000’s Week, presented by Prevagen on Marquee Sports Network.

Bruce Levine contributed to this article.

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