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Prior improves to 6-2 with eight-strikeout outing

5/29/2003

CHICAGO (AP) -- Mark Prior knows how the Chicago Cubs are viewed.

Sure, they lead the NL Central.

But it's only May.

"You are all waiting for us to slip, so you can start writing
your columns,'' he said after Wednesday's 5-4 win over the
Pittsburgh Pirates. "I'm being brutally honest. That's what it is.
I think the fans are starting to believe in us. Like I said, we
believe in ourselves, and I think that's the only thing that
matters.''

Chicago was outhit 9-5, but overcame a 2-0 deficit in the second
inning after Hee Seop Choi reached on a leadoff grounder to
shortstop Abraham Nunez.

While It appeared on replays that Choi was beaten by the throw,
first-base umpire Bill Hohn called him safe, prompting Pirates
manager Lloyd McClendon to come out of his dugout to argue.

"He said he saw him safe,'' McClendon said. "If you're a big
league umpire, you can't miss that play. You cost a team on the
road, that's battling, three runs. To me, that's disgusting. He has
to throw 15 extra pitches this inning.''

Cubs manager Dusty Baker didn't venture his opinion, but Choi
didn't think he beat the throw.

"I saw it on TV after the game, out, but I will take it.'' he
said.

Two outs later, Mark Bellhorn singled, and Damian Miller
followed with a three-run homer.

Prior then came to the plate and three pitches into the at-bat,
McClendon was ejected by Hohn for continuing to argue. It was
McClendon's second ejection this season.

McClendon also was upset after the game about Brian Giles being called out at the plate in the sixth inning.

Giles came home from third base on Aramis Ramirez's grounder to
third baseman Mark Bellhorn and was tagged out by Miller at the
plate.

"Go back and look at the replay,'' McClendon said. "The fact
is Giles' foot is on the plate. We're all held accountable -- just
do your job, that's all I ask.''

Prior (6-2) struck out eight in 7 2/3 innings, allowing four
runs and eight hits. Mike Remlinger relieved and escaped an
eighth-inning jam when Randall Simon flied out, and Joe Borowski
finished for his 10th save in 12 chances.

Alex Gonzalez's two-run homer gave Chicago a 5-2 lead in the
fourth, and Prior held the Pirates in check until the eighth. Jack
Wilson, pinch hitting for D'Amico, doubled leading off and scored
on a one-out single by Jeff Reboulet. Aramis Ramirez chased Prior
with a RBI double.

"I made it interesting at the end, unfortunately,'' Prior said.

Prior struck out the side in the first, but Pittsburgh went
ahead in the second on Craig Wilson's two-out RBI double and Rob
Mackowiak's run-scoring single.

Jeff D'Amico (4-5) dropped to 6-1 against the Cubs, giving up
all five runs and five hits in seven innings.

Game notes
Pittsburgh's Kenny Lofton, who has a 25-game hitting
streak, was given the day off. ... Sammy Sosa, on the disabled list
since May 10 following the removal of a toenail, anticipates being
activated Friday. ... Mackowiak made a leaping catch against the
wall in center on Mark Grudzielanek's fly ball in the fifth. ...
Prior threw 123 pitches. ... Ramirez extended his hitting streak to
12 games.