Nerves of jelly

In spite of the fact that the Cubs’ very own Superman, Mark Prior, will pitch Tuesday in the team’s second attempt to put away the Marlins and win the National League pennant for the first time since 1945, I’m once again a bundle of nerves.

If the Cubs had lost game four 8-3 and won game five 4-0 I’d probably feel wonderful, what with the Cubs taking two of three in Miami and coming back to Wrigley needing only one win between Prior and Wood. But they didn’t.

They won that fourth game to go up 3-1 and I keep thinking, in spite of myself, the 1984 Cubs were one win away and lost three in a row. It could happen. It has happened. And these Marlins are precisely the kind of team to do it.

It’s silly, I know. My heart is overruling my head right now. I should be thinking that Cubs have put themselves in the perfect position to win. But I can’t.

The Marlins have Carl Pavano going against Prior, and this makes me even more nervous. The Cubs haven’t faced Pavano yet in this series (except in relief), making him a wild card. He hasn’t allowed a run in relief the entire postseason. And he was a solid pitcher during the regular season, at 12-13 with a 4.30 ERA.

He doesn’t by any means have Josh Beckett-like lights-out stuff, but he could be good enough to contend with an overworked Mark Prior, who I fear will be vulnerable.

And if — shudder — the Cubs were to lose game six then all bets are off. You’re right back to a one-game season do-or-die with Wood back on the mound. He also was less than spectacular his last time out, and he’d be matching up with the crafty lefthander, Mark Redman, the kind of pitcher who gives Cubs’ hitters fits.

Karen says I’m not allowed to be nervous until and unless it goes to game seven. Well, I can’t help it. I’m nervous now. I view game six as a must-win. And I think the Cubs will too. They are lucky to be unburdened by the history we as Cubs fans carry around with us all the time.

You see, we are fans of an unchanging entity called “the Cubs.” To us, these Cubs are seemingly no different than “the Cubs” who lost in ’84, and who haven’t won the pennant in 58 years. But these Cubs are different. These Cubs don’t fear history; they embrace it. The franchise’s checkered past makes their winning all the sweeter.

Cubs fans don’t want the supposed drama of a seventh game. They want deliverance. And I think this team is ready, in spite of their fans’ trepidation, to deliver a pennant celebration in Wrigleyville on Tuesday night.

Go Cubs!