CHICAGO (AP) -- Mark Prior pitched as if he'd been around all
season. His fastball was buzzing, his curveball was dipping across
the plate and batters were having difficulty getting hits.
After two months on the disabled list, Prior's season debut was
a huge success. But even his sterling six-inning performance Friday
couldn't carry the struggling Chicago Cubs to a victory.
"It felt good to be out there. I'm not going to lie. I had some
anxiety going and probably a little nervousness going into it,"
Prior said after allowing just two hits and getting a no-decision
as Pittsburgh rallied past the Cubs 2-1.
"I think I got a little gassed right there at the end, the last
two or three hitters," Prior said of his 85-pitch performance, 55
Prior walked none, struck out eight and showed no signs of the
Achilles tendon and elbow soreness that kept him out of the rotation.
"You can't duplicate the intensity and the adrenaline you get at
this level," Prior said.
"I doesn't matter how many rehab starts you have. I was
probably a little drained because of the excitement of pitching in
a big league game."
The Pirates took some of the excitement of the day away when
they rallied for two runs in the ninth.
"Anytime you're facing Prior, you know it's going to be
tough," Jack Wilson said. "He had his stuff on, he was throwing
hard. He's only going to get better."
"To come in against Prior, that's going to be tough from the
first pitch. We definitely needed this win after dropping five in a
row," Wilson said.
Jose Macias doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth and
reached third before Mesa retired the final two batters.
With his socks pulled up high, Prior retired leadoff hitter
Jason Kendall on a grounder on his first pitch and threw only five
more to get out of the first inning.
His fastball hitting the mid-90s, Prior retired the first 13
batters before Rob Mackowiak singled to center with one out in the
Mackowiak stole second and looked on his way to breaking a
scoreless tie when Tike Redman singled to left. But Moises Alou
made a perfect throw to catcher Michael Barrett, who held on for
the out despite a jarring collision with Mackowiak.
Pirates starter Josh Fogg was just as good, allowing just four
hits in seven innings.
Fogg, facing the Cubs for the fourth time this season, pitched
out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth by striking out Todd Hollandsworth and getting Barrett on a fly ball.
Alou made a great catch on Kendall's liner to start the ninth,
ending the Pirates catcher's hitting streak at 20 games.
Prior's return has the talk of Chicago since he came down with
his injuries in spring training. His teammates were as excited as
anyone watching him pitch at Wrigley for the first time since he
lost Game 6 of the NL Championship Series last year.
"There was a lot of energy because Mark was pitching," Cubs
manager Dusty Baker said.
As Prior was finishing his bullpen warmups before Friday's game,
a crowd of four Cubs, including reliever Francis Beltran, watched
his pitches as they reached the plate. Once Prior finished, they
extended high-fives before he headed for the dugout.
Prior caused a stir the night before his season debut when he
left an autograph session at a suburban store earlier than
expected, disappointing some fans and the store owner.
Prior spent 15 minutes during his post-game news conference
explaining his side of the controversy, saying he went to sign
autographs only to find out he was being asked to meet and greet
fans and pose for pictures the night before he was supposed to
pitch. It was a commitment he made months ago.
"It's been an interesting 24 hours for myself," he said. "I'm
very happy it's over. I'm very disappointed we didn't pull this one
RHP Kerry Wood, who's on the disabled list, will play catch
and long toss Friday to test his sore triceps. ... The crowd of
40,024 increased the Cubs' home attendance mark this season to
1,020,213 for 26 dates -- the quickest they have ever reached 1
million. Last season they got to 1 million in 30 home dates.