The Inning

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The Inning is a slang name given to the 8th inning of Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series between the eventual World Series Champion Florida Marlins and the perennial "lovable losers," Chicago Cubs. The Inning is alternately thought of as an opportunity to end a near-century of losing squandered (by Cubs fans), or an opportunity seized (by Marlins fans).

The Cubs, led by their starting pitcher Mark Prior, held a 3-0 lead going into the top of the eighth inning in Game 6, and after causing Mike Mordecai to hit a high pop fly to left field, had only five outs between them and the prize they had not contested since 1945, and not won since 1908, the World Series. After Mordecai made the first out of the inning, center fielder Juan Pierre then hit a double off Prior to get to second base. Then, Luis Castillo, on a 3-2 pitch, hit a high foul ball toward the left field wall (this was the 8th pitch of the at-bat for Castillo). Cubs left fielder Moisés Alou went toward the stands trying to catch the ball for the second out. Just then, Cubs fan Steve Bartman went to catch the ball, along with other fans near the area, but unfortunately for Steve, it went off his hand and into the stands. Even though the Cubs pleaded for fan interference, the umpire said that the ball had left the field of play and was therefore up for grabs. It is important to note that even if fan interference had been called, Castillo would still have been allowed to continue his at-bat. Replays also showed the ball was on its way out of the field of play and would most likely have hit the wall prior to reaching Alou. In any instance, Castillo's at-bat would continue. Veteran Alou's response to the incident (swearing, jumping up and down, and gesturing wildly), in the eyes of many MLB insiders, probably had more of a negative impact on Mark Prior (a young player) than any fan interference.

As a result of all this, Castillo remained alive at home plate. Afterward, Prior didn't seem to be the same pitcher. On the next pitch, he walked Castillo on a wild pitch that got away from catcher Paul Bako, allowing Pierre to advance to third base. Next, Iván Rodríguez hit a pitch hard into left field, singling and scoring Pierre. It was now 3-1. Miguel Cabrera then hit a ground ball toward Cubs shortstop Alex S. Gonzalez that should have ended in a double play. Gonzalez, who led all NL shortstops in fielding percentage, closed his glove a little too early and the ball landed in the dirt, allowing Cabrera to get on base, loading them. On the next pitch, (future Cubs All-Star) Derrek Lee drilled a double into left field, scoring Castillo and Rodríguez to tie the game at 3-3.

Prior was then taken out of the game and replaced by Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth intentionally walked Mike Lowell to load the bases. Jeff Conine then hit a sacrifice fly to right field for the second out of the inning, allowing Cabrera to score from third and the others runners to advance one base. This gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead, their first of the night. Farnsworth walked Todd Hollandsworth intentionally to once again load the bases. He then faced Mordecai, who was looking to make up for his earlier out. This time, Mordecai prevailed, hitting a bases-clearing double to left-center field, allowing Lee, Lowell and Hollandsworth to score and making it a 7-3 Marlins lead.

Farnsworth was also taken out of the game and replaced by Mike Remlinger, who gave up a single to Pierre to score Mordecai from second base, putting the Marlins up 8-3. Luis Castillo, the man who began the inning's barrage, was also the one who ended it, hitting a high pop fly ball to right field for the third out. The Cubs never recovered and lost the game, forcing a final Game 7, which the Marlins rallied to win as well.