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Prior homers, pitches into eighth inning at Coors

4/26/2003

DENVER (AP) -- Coors Field helped Mark Prior's hitting a lot more
than it affected his pitching.

Prior drove in four runs, hit his first career homer and pitched
into the eighth inning as the Chicago Cubs beat the Colorado
Rockies 11-7 Friday night.

"He was just filthy,'' Colorado's Todd Helton said. "I've
never seen him have a bad start. They should name a bridge or a
street or something after him.''

The biggest complaint about Coors Field from pitchers is that
their breaking balls don't bite as much in the altitude. Prior
(4-1) doesn't seem to have that problem.

In three career starts at the hitter-friendly park, Prior is 3-0
with a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings. On Friday night, he offset a
fastball in the mid-90s with a hard-breaking slider that made some
of the Rockies' best hitters look bad at times.

Prior allowed two runs on five hits and struck out seven in
seven-plus innings to join Pittsburgh's Jeff Suppan and San
Francisco's Damian Moss as the National League's only four-game
winners.

"I throw two (breaking balls). I throw kind of a slow,
get-me-over one and I try to throw a hard biting one,'' said Prior,
who has allowed three runs or fewer in all five starts, pitching
past the sixth inning in each outing. "When I get up here, I just
try to throw the harder one.''

Corey Patterson was 4-for-5 with a homer and three RBI for the
Cubs, who had 16 hits after managing just 16 in three games against
San Diego. Chicago avoided its first three-game losing streak of
the season, winning for the ninth time in 13 games.

Colorado lost its fourth straight and had its five-game home
winning streak snapped. The Rockies are 8-2 at Coors Field.

Colorado starter Nelson Cruz (3-1) had his first bad outing of
the year, allowing seven runs in 5 2-3 innings -- matching his total
from his previous four starts.

He became the first Rockies starter to lose at home (5-1) after
allowing more than three runs for the first time in five starts.

"I think I made a lot of good pitches, but I made a couple of
mistakes and they made me pay for it,'' Cruz said.

Prior did the most damage.

He put the Cubs up 3-0 with a leadoff homer in the third that
landed in the back of Colorado's bullpen in right.

In the sixth inning, Cruz walked Damian Miller to get to Prior,
but he pulled a three-run double just inside third base to put the
Cubs up 7-1.

"I was just trying to hopefully hit a little flare or
something,'' said Prior, who had as many RBI as he did all last
year. "Luckily, I got a pitch inside and was able to turn on it.''

The last Cubs pitcher with four RBI in a game was Kevin Tapani,
who did it July 20, 1998, against Atlanta.

Prior breezed through Colorado's lineup until Preston Wilson
knocked in a run with an infield single in the fourth. Jay Payton
scored after getting hit by a pitch and taking second on a long fly
by Todd Helton.

Prior was pulled in the eighth after issuing a leadoff walk to
Ronnie Belliard, and that's when things got interesting.

Helton greeted reliever Mike Remlinger with a two-run homer to
left, his sixth of the season, then Larry Walker made it 8-4 with a
solo shot to left that just cleared the wall. Walker's homer was
his third.

The Cubs scored three runs in the ninth off Todd Jones to go up
11-4, and they needed almost all of them.

The Rockies scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning,
including a two-run double by Helton, before Joe Borowski finished
it off by striking out Walker and Wilson.

"When you play here at Coors Field you never feel
comfortable,'' Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "You never know
which run is going to be the deciding run.''

Patterson opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the second
that curled just inside the foul pole in right. Patterson's fourth
of the season drew a loud cheer from the unusually large number of
Cubs fans in the crowd.

Hee Seop Choi hit a broken-bat single in the third that put the
Cubs up 4-0.

Game notes
Patterson was 3-for-19 in five games before his homer in
the second inning. ... Prior became the first Cubs' pitcher with
two extra base hits since Ismael Valdes had two doubles May 24,
2000, at Coors Field. ... Chicago's Alex Gonzalez had a long wait
to get a walk in the seventh inning after home plate umpire Eric
Cooper lost track of the count. All four umpires gathered near home
plate for several minutes before Gonzalez was awarded the walk. He
ran to first to the mock cheers of the fans. ... Helton went
3-for-5 to become the fourth player in team history to reach 1,000
hits.