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Patterson, Prior pave way to Cubs' rout
After Corey Patterson scaled the right-field wall like Spiderman and robbed Joe Randa of a potential home run to end the first inning of Tuesday night's 7-1 victory over Cincinnati, a handful of Cubs waited on the field to greet him before he reached the dugout.
If the new-era Cubs ever wanted to make a statement about their unity, the show of support for Patterson was a perfect way to put it on display.
"You don't see those plays," winning pitcher Mark Prior said. "You see [Jim] Edmonds, he has done that a few times in his career. But when you get a chance to see that play, to be a part of that play, and see it live, it's a special part of the game.
"He's a heck of an athlete and it's just fun to watch him when he does things like that."
In his second start after a silent spring of rehabbing his sore elbow, Prior proved he's ready to make amends for the lost season of 2004. He allowed only one unearned run on four hits in seven innings, improving to 2-0 and putting the Cubs back at .500. In 13 innings overall, Prior has yet to give up an earned run.
Patterson, Michael Barrett and Derrek Lee homered, while Patterson, Aramis Ramirez and left fielder Jason Dubois made eye-grabbing plays on defense to help the Cubs erase the sting of Monday night's collapse.
"We needed to come back and win this," Prior said.
Patterson's homer off Reds left-hander Brandon Claussen gave Prior a 1-0 lead in the first, but the Reds hit three shots in the bottom of the inning. Patterson caught Ken Griffey Jr.'s blast at the wall, Dubois made a running catch to rob Sean Casey and Patterson's ultimate highlight-reel catch on Randa's drive was the cherry on the sundae.
"I played a little deeper than I do normally," Patterson said. "It was still a tough play, but that gave me an extra half-inch to get to those two balls."
Patterson made only one error last year and led all National League center fielders in fielding percentage, yet was denied a Gold Glove award. His first-inning defense on Tuesday may have taken the life out of the Reds.
"That set the tone of the game," manager Dusty Baker said. "He made two huge catches."
The Cubs broke through with three more runs off Claussen in the third, giving them a 4-0 lead for the second straight night. Prior singled, Jerry Hairston doubled and Patterson reached on a dribbler to third when Randa was late on his tag of Prior.
With one out, Ramirez dumped a broken-bat single into left-center, bringing in two runs, while Patterson came around to score from first on Griffey's errant relay throw from center.
After the Reds scored an unearned run in the fourth on a throwing error by Nomar Garciaparra, the Cubs answered with two in the sixth on Neifi Perez's RBI groundout and a homer by Barrett, who earlier broke an 0-for-26 skid.
"He's knocking fire from the ball, and he has been our tough-luck guy," Baker said of Barrett. "Nobody has hit more atom balls than him."
The Cubs have lost so many tough games this young season that a victory on Tuesday seemed mandatory, if only to soothe their minds heading into a two-game showdown in St. Louis.
"It's hard to take any time, but if it's going to happen, you'd rather it happen early," Baker said. "You hate to let games get away when we fought so hard to get back in, or to stay ahead of them. You know what could've been, but you try not to think in those terms."