CHICAGO (AP) -- If Mark Prior had an ounce of uncertainty about
his ability to win games, Cubs manager Dusty Baker is hoping its
Prior won his first game of the year, allowing two earned runs
in 5 2/3 innings, and the Chicago Cubs defeated the Pittsburgh
Pirates 7-5 on Saturday.
Making the eighth start of another season shortened by injuries,
Prior (1-5) struck out five while giving up five hits and three
walks and hitting a batter. The right-hander won for the first time
since Sept. 10, 2005 at San Francisco.
"You get that victory, that's a huge step. I'm sure his
confidence is better. Not to say it wasn't before, but certainly
guys can hide and mask things, but he's used to winning and when
you are not winning it has to affect you some kind of way. So I'm
hoping his first win is the first of many to come," Baker said.
Prior began the season on the disabled list with a sore
shoulder, came off it June 18 and went 0-4 in four starts. He went
back on the DL on July 9 with a strained left oblique muscle.
"I thought I threw the ball well today. Through the second and
fifth [innings] I felt like I was getting in a little of groove,
felt like I was getting on top of the ball and located well to
righties today. I did some good things today and did some bad
things today and move on to the next step," said Prior who snapped
a career-high 10-game winless streak.
Ryan Dempster pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 21st save.
Pirates starter Zach Duke (7-10), who has been undefeated
against the Cubs, gave up four runs in the first inning on six hits
as the Cubs batted around. Duke came into the game 4-0 with a 0.56
ERA in four outings -- three at Wrigley Field -- against Chicago.
But Juan Pierre led off with a single and then scored on Cesar
Izturis' groundout. With two outs, Aramis Ramirez doubled and
scored on Pagan's single. Murton and Ronny Cedeno had
RBI singles up the middle to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
"It's not something where I look back and say 'Oh yeah I
control this team.' Because then you go out and get complacent.
That thought never crossed my mind," Duke said.
Duke lasted six innings and gave up five runs on nine hits. He
had two strikeouts and walked three.
"He had a rough spot in the first inning," Pirates manager Jim
Tracy said. "If he puts the first inning down they get the one run
and more than likely he's out there for quite awhile today."
Paulino hit his fifth homer of the season in the fifth inning to
make it 4-1.
Prior couldn't find the strike zone in the sixth inning and the
Pirates were able to cut the lead to 4-3. Jason Bay and Xavier Nady
walked, and with two outs Prior hit Jose Bautista with a pitch to
load the bases. Paulino walked on four straight pitches, scoring
Bay and ending Prior's outing.
Catcher Michael Barrett didn't want to discuss Prior's troubles
in the sixth inning.
"I just think that today was a great game for him. We just need
to forget that and now think about the fact that he got his first
win and go from here," Barrett said.
Will Ohman relieved and struck out Duke with the bases loaded to
end the inning.
Murton hit his sixth homer in the sixth to make it 5-3.
The Pirates drew within one again when Nady drove in a run with
a groundout in the eighth inning.
But Pagan's solo shot in the eighth against Matt Capps gave the
Cubs an insurance run.
SS Jack Wilson missed his third straight game with
tightness in his right calf. He is day-to-day. ... Murton is 10 for
his last 22 after going 2-for-4. ... Duke is 1-8 on the road this