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Prior strikes out 13 in victory

9/17/2003

CHICAGO (AP) -- Mark Prior has already put up some dazzling
numbers for a guy who just turned 23 and is only two years out of
college.

The only numbers that matter to Prior? Whatever the final score
says.

Prior pitched the Chicago Cubs to a 3-2 victory over the New
York Mets on Tuesday night, striking out 13 and coming within an
out of his fourth complete game of the year. He's now 8-1 with a
1.45 ERA since returning from the disabled list Aug. 4.

"My job, whether we score 10 or we score one, is just to keep
them from scoring as many as we do," Prior said. "I don't care
how many hits I give up, I don't care how many guys I walk. As long
as I keep them from crossing the plate.

"A win is a win right now," he added. "It doesn't matter how
many we score."

Sammy Sosa drove in all of the Cubs' runs, including a two-run
homer. Mark Grudzielanek went 3-for-3 with a run scored.

The Cubs improved to 12-4 in September, but they didn't pick up
any ground in the NL Central race. They remained 1{ games behind
first-place Houston, which beat Colorado 14-4.

"I could care less," Prior said when asked if he did any
scoreboard watching. "We've got to worry about ourselves. We don't
have to worry about them. They've got to do their job, and we've
got our job to do. We'll tally it up at the end of next week."

New York made things interesting in the ninth, when Matt Watson
hit a two-out, RBI double off of Prior to cut Chicago's lead to
3-2. Prior (16-6) had already thrown 124 pitches, so manager Dusty
Baker brought in closer Joe Borowski.

Borowski walked Raul Gonzalez to put runners on first and
second. But with the Wrigley Field crowd standing, Borowski struck
out Roger Cedeno for his 30th save in 34 chances. The Mets have
lost 11 of 12.

Jae Weong Seo (8-12) allowed three runs -- two earned -- and five
hits in six innings.

"I'm just glad I was able to get that last out for (Prior),"
Borowski said. "It would have been a shame for him to get a
no-decision in that game."

A record crowd was on hand to see it, too. With a crowd of
39,534 the Cubs set a new single-season attendance record at
Wrigley Field. The Cubs have drawn 2,844,087 already this year,
topping the previous mark of 2,813,854 set in 1999.

Prior got off to a little bit of a rocky start, allowing five
hits in the first four innings, including Cedeno's solo homer to
lead off the third. He walked one batter and hit another.

But after Jason Phillips led off the fourth inning with a
single, something clicked. Prior gave up just two hits over the
next five innings. The Mets had a runner in scoring position once,
when Danny Garcia doubled with one out in the fifth and took third
on Timo Perez's groundout.

That brought up Mike Piazza, but Prior struck him out -- what
else? -- to end the threat.

"Prior is great, he is really good," Phillips said. "He would
get ahead of you, then he would climb the ladder. The gun says 93,
94, 95 sometimes, but he is so deceptive he gets on you in a
hurry."

The Cubs stranded eight runners, including four in scoring
position. But they got enough offense early to back Prior.

Seo was the fifth straight starting pitcher the Cubs were seeing
for the first time, but the unfamiliarity hardly mattered. Kenny
Lofton and Grudzielanek both reached base on errors in the first,
and Sosa followed with a fielder's choice that gave the Cubs a 1-0
lead.

Sosa wasn't done, either. After Grudzielanek reached on an
infield single in the third, Sosa put Seo's first pitch into the
shrubbery in center field to give Chicago a 3-1 lead.

The homer was Sosa's first since Sept. 7 in Milwaukee, and it
gave him 534 for his career, tying him with Jimmie Foxx for 11th on
the all-time list. With two more home runs, Sosa will tie Mickey
Mantle and crack the top 10.

"That's nice, and it's something that's good for my career,"
Sosa said. "But right now, I only have one thing on my mind, and
that's winning every day and winning the division."

Game notes
Borowski is the first Cubs pitcher with 30 saves since Rod
Beck had 51 in 1998. ... Cubs pitchers have struck out 1,304
batters for the season, only the fourth staff -- and third straight
Cubs staff -- to reach the 1,300 mark. The Arizona Diamondbacks had
1,303 strikeouts last year. ... Sosa's homer was the Cubs' first
since last Wednesday, a span of 210 at-bats. ... Piazza was 0-for-4
with two strikeouts, and is now 1-for-16 over his last five games.