There were five outs to go, the Wrigley Field crowd were on their feet with the World Series within their grasp after nearly 60 years of hurt. Then it was almost as if the game's gods woke up and realised that this was, after all, the Chicago Cubs.
This time, though, the Cubs blew it - thanks, in part, to one of their own fans. In a stunning eighth-inning turnaround, the Florida Marlins took advantage of Moises Alou's run-in with a fan on a foul fly and an error by the shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, to score eight runs in an 8-3 victory on Tuesday night, forcing the National League Championship Series to 3-3 and a Game Seven.
"I don't know about the fan robbing them," Jack McKeon, the Marlins manager, said. "I don't think that was the turning point." He might have been the only person in the ballpark who felt that way.
Mark Prior, Sammy Sosa and the Cubs had cruised into the eighth with a 3-0 lead, all set to end their 58-year absence from the World Series. What followed was a sudden collapse to rival anything in theirpainful past - and the emergence of the most infamous fan since Jeffrey Maier, aged 12, reached for a ball in the 1996 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.
A 26-year-old wearing a Cubs hat prevented Alou from catching Luis Castillo's ball, and given a last-gasp chance, the Marlins broke loose. As security escorted the fan out, he put a jacket over his face for protection but not before others hurled beers in his direction. "You cost us the World Series," one fan yelled, while Alou said: "Hopefully, he won't have to regret it for the rest of his life."
* David Wells allowed four hits and Karim Garcia hit a two-run single in the second inning to lift the New York Yankees to a 4-2 win and 3-2 series lead over the Boston Red Sox in Game Five of the American League Championship Series.
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