To the joy of the Sunshine State, but the disappointment of baseball romantics everywhere, the Florida Marlins have advanced to the World Series at the expense of those eternal losers, the Chicago Cubs.
The Marlins capped a stunning comeback from a 3-1 deficit in games to secure a 9-6 win in the deciding seventh match and clinch the National League Championship - on the Cubs' home turf of Wrigley Field. In the World Series, which starts tomorrow, they will face American League Champions, the New York Yankees who last night beat Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium to win their series 4-3.
Unfancied but rarely failing to produce a clutch hit when they needed one, the Marlins overcame Mark Prior and Kerry Woods, Chicago's two leading pitchers, in the final games.
Not for the first time, however, the Cubs also beat themselves - maintaining the supposed jinx that has prevented them winning a World Series since 1908.
The turning point was in Game Six, with the home team up by 3-0, and just five outs away from a win that would have wrapped up a 4-2 series triumph. Instead Steve Bartman, the now notorious Cubs fan, inadvertently prevented a Chicago outfielder from catching a foul ball. The Cubs thereupon fell apart, conceding eight runs in that eighth inning, and losing the game 8-3.
Visibly deflated the players trooped off the field. For any Cubs fan accustomed to losing, the result of the deciding game the following night was a foregone conclusion.
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