The Chicago Cubs are just one victory away from gaining their first World Series berth in 58 years. The Cubs beat the Florida Marlins 8-3, in game four of the National League championship late Saturday.
The Cubs got off to a fast start when Aramis Ramirez hit a grand-slam home run in the first inning, and they built the lead to 7-0 by the fourth inning. Ramirez, who had two homers, drove in six runs.
Chicago takes a three-games-to-one lead into Sunday's afternoon contest in Miami. If the Marlins come back in game five, the best-of-seven series will return to Chicago on Tuesday.
In the American League, the New York Yankees beat their traditional rivals, the Boston Red Sox, 4-3, to go up two games to one in their battle to win the league championship and get into the World Series which begins next Saturday.
The game at Fenway Park in Boston was billed in advance as a classic duel between two of the game's finest pitchers, the Yankees' Roger Clemens and Boston's Pedro Martinez. It turned out to be a raucous affair interrupted by fights and taunts.
No one was ejected, but Yankees coach Don Zimmer and a member of the Boston grounds crew were both hospitalized as a result of separate incidents during the game.
The Yanks and Sox meet again tonight in Boston for game four of their series.
Neither pitcher was on his best form at the start of the game. Clemens gave up two runs in the first inning, but the Yankees were back in the lead, 3-2, when trouble began in the fourth inning. Boston pitcher Martinez hit Yankee batter Karim Garcia in the back, near his head. Many players felt Martinez deliberately threw at Garcia, and the umpire warned both teams to avoid such tactics.
Moments later, Garcia knocked down Boston second baseman Todd Walker while sliding hard past the bag on a double play as New York's fourth run scored. That triggered an angry exchange between the two players and brought members of both teams onto the field, shouting at each other.
In Boston's next turn at bat, Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez ducked away from a head-high pitch that was slightly and began stalking toward Clemens on the pitcher's mound. Players poured out of both dugouts and rushed onto the field, yelling. Zimmer, who is portly and 72 years old, headed for Martinez and appeared to be ready to land a punch, but the Boston pitcher threw him to the ground. The coach looked dazed for a few seconds, but he appeared to suffer only a small cut on his nose. However, he was taken to a hospital in an ambulance later as a precaution.
Another skirmish broke out late in the game in the New York bullpen when a Boston grounds crew member scuffled with Yankees relief pitcher Jeff Nelson. New York right-fielder Karim Garcia - the same player hit by Martinez earlier - cut his hand while trying to help his teammate, and had to leave the game.