Series: Game 2 of 3

Series tied 1-1 (as of 8/20)

Game 1: Tuesday, August 19
Chi Cubs8Final
Game 2: Wednesday, August 20
Chi Cubs6Final
Game 3: Thursday, August 21
Chi Cubs3Final

Cubs 6

(65-60, 33-28 away)

Astros 0

(66-60, 37-24 home)

    8:05 PM ET, August 20, 2003

    Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

    123456789 R H E
    CHC 000204000 6 12 0
    HOU 000000000 0 4 1

    W: M. Prior (12-5)

    L: J. Fernandez (1-3)

    Cubs only half-game back of Astros

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Mark Prior really wanted to beat the Houston Astros, and it certainly showed.

    Prior, roughed up earlier this season at Minute Maid Park, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning as the Chicago Cubs moved within a half-game of the Houston Astros in the NL Central with a 6-0 victory Wednesday night.

    "I kind of took this outing personal," Prior said. "I came down here earlier this year and didn't have a good outing. These guys have hit me pretty well in the past and it was time for me to stand up and take control."

    Prior (12-5) allowed four hits and struck out nine in seven shutout innings as the Cubs snapped a three-game losing streak. He had a no-hitter until Adam Everett led off the sixth with a double.

    "We've been hitting the ball really great and I don't think anybody matches up with our pitching staff, so that's a strong point for us," Prior said. "That's why, hopefully, we'll come out on top."

    The win was Prior's fourth straight since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 4 with a bruised right shoulder. He's allowed just two earned runs in 31 innings for a 0.58 ERA, with 29 strikeouts and three walks in those four starts.

    The Astros beat Prior 7-5 on May 23.

    "It's the first time since I came back I felt I had my explosive fastball," Prior said. "Now if I could just get my curve ball back where it was before I got hurt, I think I'll be right where I was. The fastball felt great. I was able to pitch with that all night."

    Kyle Farnsworth pitched the eighth and Joe Borowski the ninth to complete the Cubs' eighth shutout this season.

    Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the fourth off knuckleballer Jared Fernandez (1-3), and Randall Simon added a three-run shot in the sixth for the Cubs.

    "I hit the knuckleball out and the only way is to stay back waiting for it," Ramirez said. "When they come out of his hand, there is no way of knowing where the ball is going."

    Prior didn't get into trouble until the seventh, when Jeff Bagwell and Richard Hidalgo singled with one out. After pinch-hitter Orlando Merced flied out, Brad Ausmus singled to load the bases but Everett flied out to end the threat.

    "He was throwing that fastball 94-96 in the opening inning and he's usually at about 91-92," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "I knew we'd probably have to go get him. Three complete games is a lot and he has to be ready for St. Louis on Tuesday."

    Ramirez gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot. Of Ramirez's 83 RBI this season, 22 are against the Astros. Also, five of his 18 homers have been against Houston.

    The two runs were all Prior needed.

    Prior struck out the first five batters and got Geoff Blum on a fly to center to end the second inning.

    He walked Ausmus to start the third and after Everett struck out and Fernandez sacrificed, Craig Biggio drove the ball to the warning track in right field, where Sammy Sosa caught it for the final out.

    Lance Berkman almost beat out a dribbler in front of the plate to start the fourth and Prior then struck out Bagwell and Jeff Kent to end the inning. Prior pitched a perfect fifth before giving up the hit to Everett in the sixth.

    "I classify him as a kid who still has to go through a lot of seasons to learn all the command he needs to have," Kent said. "I say that with a lot of respect. I think he's going to have better command of his pitches someday and hopefully that will be after I retire."

    Fernandez pitched 5 1-3 innings, allowed six hits, four runs. His wild pitch in the sixth scored Tony Womack, starting his first game for the Cubs since being obtained in a trade with Colorado. He went 3-for-4.

    "We're looking forward to tomorrow," Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "We didn't get a lot of hits tonight. Their guy was throwing real good."

    Game notes

    Kent, who drove in six runs in Tuesday's 12-8 victory over the Cubs, had his 13-game hitting streak stopped. ... Cubs OF Tom Goodwin singled in the eighth for his 1,000th career hit. ... Sosa needs two homers to reach 500 with the Cubs, and join Ernie Banks (512) as the only players to hit that many with the team. ... The Astros are 58-2 when leading after eight innings. ... Bagwell needs two homers to become the 13th player in major league history to hit 30 or more homers in eight straight seasons. ... The Cubs haven't had a no-hitter since 1972, when Milt Pappas beat San Diego 8-0. He missed a perfect game when he walked Larry Stahl with two outs in the ninth.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press