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Prior pitches Cubs into 1st
The Cubs' season has played out like a fractured fairy tale so far, with six weeks left to find out whether they'll turn into pumpkins.
No one knows what's in store as they head into the final stages of a three-way division race, but if Mark Prior and Sammy Sosa keep it up, it's a tale that may be retold for years to come.
Prior pitched the Cubs to a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles on Friday with his second straight complete game, while Sosa drove in both runs and had two doubles.
The win moved the Cubs past Houston and St. Louis, who both lost Friday night, and into first place in the National League Central for the first time since July 2.A capacity crowd of 40,188 at Wrigley Field left believing the pitching-rich Cubs may be coming together at just the right time, though any time would be the right time when you haven't won the World Series since 1908.
"I'm happy for them," Prior said of the fans. "They're finally getting to see a good team, a contending team. They've put up with so much for so long."
Both of Prior's complete games were victories over the Dodgers, who have scored one run or fewer in 31 games this season.
In his three games since coming off the disabled list, Prior is 3-0 with a 0.75 earned-run average.
Since Aug. 1, Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement are a combined 8-2 with a 1.63 earned-run average, allowing 6.3 hits per nine innings.
"It's not often you hold on to a 2-1 victory," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Sammy drove in both runs, and (third-base coach) Wendell [Kim] was waving guys around. Guys were ... well, not down, but a little emotionally tired after that rough series with Houston. This is where that fresh arm comes in, which is what Prior did."
Sosa gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI double to the ivy in left-center. Kim waved Lofton around from first and watched him score when catcher Paul Lo Duca dropped an on-target relay.
"Any time you play the Dodgers, you've got to take chances, because you're not going to get a whole lot of runs," Baker said. "They lead the league in pitching. If you're going to take a chance, the best time is early in the game. I knew it was going to be close. I was hoping they'd mess up the relay."
After Alex Gonzalez's two-out double in the fifth, Sosa slapped a liner off the glove of third baseman Adrian Beltre to make it 2-0.
Solid defense saved Prior in the seventh when Augie Ojeda caught Beltre's hard liner on a hop, fell backward and started a double play from a sitting position.
Lo Duca's one-out, RBI single in the eighth snapped Prior's shutout and the tying run advanced to third when Moises Alou dropped the ball.
But Prior induced Shawn Green to pop to short, then struck out Jeromy Burnitz on three pitches to get out of the jam.
"After Lo Duca's hit, we folded offensively," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "The stage was set. We were in good position."
Now the Cubs are in a good position to make a dream season come true.
"Everything is working pretty good right now," Sosa said. "This is our chance to win the division."