10/07/2003 6:35 PM ET
Marlins: Keys to victory
Cubs: Keys to Victory
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
1. Keep the mojo going
Yes, that spiritual aide actually belongs to the Seattle Mariners, but they're vacationing and don't need it now. Physical skills -- and the Marlins' are considerable and varied -- are helpful, but not enough. See: Braves and the Bay Area dropouts. So can Florida spin the Fish Fable through another chapter? The Marlins have been, in baseball-ese, unconscious since Jack McKeon's mid-May appointment, ripping through a torrid September and delivering an NLDS sucker punch to the Giants. Don't pass the smelling salts.
2. Chad Fox
Ugueth Urbina is installed as the closer. The starters -- Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Mike Redman, Dontrelle Willis -- have an outstanding track record for each being lights out for seven innings. The Eighth (Inning) Man becomes critical, and Fox sparkled in the setup role during the NLDS, working in three of the games and allowing only one run in five innings. He'll have to be as big a deterrent.
3. Veterans' Days
The children shall not lead the Marlins. Their load of younger talent -- like Miguel Cabrera and Willis -- will have their days. But right now, it's still all about Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Conine, who wouldn't let the Marlins lose to the Giants. Their towering presences were an awesome source of comfort to the postseason rookies on the team. And look for Mike Lowell, before it's over, to make it a Three Old Dog Night.
4. Splitsville in Wrigleyville
The Marlins and Athletics were the most schizophrenic teams in the postseason, the only ones with losing road records. It has already cost Oakland. With four potential games in Wrigley Field, Florida clearly has to survive Chicago. More pointedly, the Marlins need to have at least one win before the series shifts to Pro Player Stadium on Friday.
5. Pierre, to go
The Marlins will not win a slugfest. They don't pound the ball, particularly from the left side. They have to go-go, and leadoff man Juan Pierre sets the tempo. One superior Game 2 (4-for-5 with 3 RBIs) obscured his overall poor Division Series, in which he drew only one walk for a .300 on-base percentage, which in turn limited him to one stolen base. He will have to do much more in this round.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.