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Baker frustrated after Cubs fall to .500 mark
When Corey Patterson went down with a season-ending knee injury last Sunday, the Cubs were wondering what possibly could happen next.
They found out in the second inning Friday when All-Star pitcher Mark Prior flipped over during a base-running collision with Atlanta second baseman Marcus Giles, spending several moments writhing in pain on the infield dirt.
Prior continued to pitch but was ineffective in a 9-5 loss to the Braves, dropping the Cubs to .500 for the first time since April 13.
The Cubs trailed 2-1 when Prior went back to the mound, but he gave up a two-run, bases-loaded single to Vinny Castilla in the fourth.
Castilla, who drove in four runs for the second straight day, already had hit a two-run homer in the second after the Cubs failed to turn a double play on a grounder to Prior with one out. Andruw Jones' two-run homer made it 6-1 in the fifth, prompting Prior's exit.
Sammy Sosa hit two solo home runs and went 4-for-4, and the Cubs pulled to within three runs in the eighth, but Moises Alou struck out with the bases loaded to end their final threat.
Mike Hampton (5-5) scattered 11 hits for the victory, leaving the Cubs with 14 losses in their last 21 games. The Cubs left 11 men on base.
"That's driving me real crazy, because we had opportunities," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Especially early in the game. Two categories really hurting us are strikeouts and double plays. If we cut those down, well score a lot of runs."
Sosa is hot again, but the Cubs are getting colder by the hour.
"Sammy is swinging the bat," Baker said. "You knew it was going to come sooner or later. Now is time for the rest of us to pick it up, too, in all categories and all departments. We need this game [Saturday]. We certainly don't want to go below .500. We've been creeping down to it. Now we've got to creep back away from it."
Prior will undergo tests Saturday, but he appeared to be OK. He wasn't watching Giles when the Braves' All-Star went for a grounder off Mark Grudzielanek's bat with two outs in the second inning, precipitating the collision that sent Prior sprawling and knocked out Giles.
"I was kind of in slow motion a little bit, I took the initial hit and I didn't realize what I was doing," Prior said.
"I was fortunate I was conscious enough to try and tuck my arm in as much as I could so I didn't just land straight-armed. Iinitially thought it was going to be my shoulder, and that's why I was grabbing it.
"It wasn't my shoulder that was hurtingit was my legs and groin area. I looked up and saw he was out of it, then I got up and felt fine. But the fourth or fifth inning, sitting down in dugout, things started to tighten up."
"He told us he's a little sore, but he's OK," Baker said. "That's a positive sign."
Giles was sent to an area hospital with a mild concussion, was treated and released. He will miss the final two games of the series, however.
"Giles doesn't remember the play happeningfielding the ball, who hit it
anything," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "I think he's fine."