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Chicago picks up fifth straight victory

4/20/2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Chicago Cubs who lost 95 games last season
might have folded after this ninth-inning disappointment. These
first-place Cubs couldn't wait until the 10th inning.

Mark Grudzielanek singled home the go-ahead run in a five-run
10th, and Chicago won its fifth straight, beating the slumping
Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Saturday night behind Mark Prior's latest
strong start.

The Cubs matched their longest winning streak of last season and
improved to 12-6, four short of the club record for April wins, set
in 1969. Each of their starters has won during the winning streak,
the first time the Cubs' rotation has done that since 1993.

"We are coming together as a team," manager Dusty Baker said.

Just as the Pirates appear to be falling apart. They wasted Kip
Wells' excellent start -- two hits and a run in seven innings -- and
lost their third in a row and sixth in seven games.

The Pirates are 1-4 against the Cubs, scoring only five runs
despite a series of recent clubhouse meetings. Apparently, they
didn't address the issue of scoring runs against the opposing
starter.

Prior's strong start followed that of Mets rookie Jae Seo, who
shut them out for seven innings Thursday in a 7-2 victory and the
Cubs' Matt Clement, who held them to two hits in seven innings in a
7-2 victory Friday.

"People will look at the last inning and think it was a bad
game, but it was a great game," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon
said. "We had a lot of opportunities to score runs, we couldn't
get the big hit when we needed it."

The Cubs did in the 10th, when they got six of their eight hits
_ four in a row against Mike Williams, who hadn't allowed a hit or
run in 5 1-3 innings over six games.

The comeback came after Prior (3-1) who was working on his
second shutout in three starts, a five-hitter, gave up Randall
Simon's run-scoring grounder with one out in the ninth.

Jason Kendall singled after first baseman Hee Seop Choi couldn't
hold his foul popup along the grandstand railing, and an Aramis
Ramirez walk and wild pitch with Simon batting led to the tying
run.

"I was upset I didn't close it out," Prior said. "Hopefully,
I'll have a better approach the next time I'm in that situation.
But we won, and that's the most important thing."

Alex Gonzalez said the Cubs were "a little upset they came
back. We wanted to get back on top as soon as we could."

They did, breaking it open in the 10th against relievers Scott
Sauerbeck (0-1) and Williams on one-out RBI singles by Grudzielanek
and Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa's two-run single. Ramon Martinez also
had a sacrifice fly.

Damian Miller singled off Sauerbeck with one out. Williams then
failed to retire any of the five batters he faced, walking
pinch-hitter Eric Karros ahead of four straight hits finished off
by Moises Alou's single.

"I didn't make any good pitches," Williams said. "I didn't
have anything. It's frustrating because we battled our rear ends
off against a heck of a pitcher to force extra innings, and then I
gave us no chance to win."

Neither did an offense that has produced only 29 runs in 13
games, scoring more than three runs only once. The Pirates have won
only four of the 13.

The Cubs, by contrast, have scored in double digits four times
and are second in the NL in hitting, but their strong pitching is
as much responsible for their fast start as their offense.

With Prior (3-1), Kerry Wood (3-0) and Matt Clement (2-1) all
pitching well, the Cubs are second in the NL in ERA and first in
strikeouts.

Prior has allowed only five earned runs in his four starts. He
gave up six hits, four to Kendall, and struck out six while
throwing 112 pitches, twice getting key double-play grounders with
runners in scoring position.

"I'm glad he got the win, because he wanted to win badly,"
Baker said. "I would have hated to waste a pitching effort like
that."

Joe Borowski finished with a perfect 10th in a non-save
situation.

Choi's two-out double in the fourth gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
The only other hit off Wells was Mark Bellhorn's leadoff single in
the second. Wells struck out eight.

Game notes
Prior shut out the Expos 3-0 on four hits on April 9. ...
Choi is 7-for-16 with three homers, two doubles and seven RBIs in
his last five games. ... The Pirates are 1-4 on a season-long
12-game homestand. ... Wells has a 1.78 ERA in eight starts against
the Cubs, but is only 2-1.

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