White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saw Cubs counterpart Dusty Baker walk up the steps of the U.S. Cellular Field conference room, then got into a boxing stance.
Guillen broke into a smile, then hugged Baker after Guillen and his players fell helpless to one of the most dominating performances in the nine years of this intracity series.
Mark Prior gave the Cubs more than just a split of their season series with their cross-town rivals. Prior was at his best against Sox 12-game winner Jon Garland in his first game since suffering a fractured bone in his right elbow.
Prior threw six innings of one-hit ball that carried the Cubs to a 2-0 victory before a sellout crowd of 39,143.
The mercurial Cubs may have regained some momentum with Prior's return and Kerry Wood scheduled to make his first start Wednesday since being sidelined for two months because of a right shoulder strain.
Corey Patterson, who was hitless in 13 at-bats entering the series, had a hit in every game and snapped a scoreless duel between Prior (5-1) and Garland (12-3) by golfing a home run in the sixth on an 0-2 pitch.
The Cubs, not the Sox, played sound baseball as they turned two double plays in the final two innings while taking advantage of Paul Konerko's error to score an insurance run in the seventh.
"[The Sox] have won 50 games," Prior said. "To come in here and take two of three in their park, that's a credit to our team that we don't give up, especially after a tough game (12-2 loss) on Friday."
Sunday's loss concluded an 8-4 homestand for the Sox, who seemed ready to hit the road and avoid local scrutiny about their 50-24 start.
"Just because we lose two games doesn't mean it's the end of the world," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, whose line was repeated later by Garland. "We'll come back and go to Detroit and try to win there.
"It's more important if we win the games in our (AL Central) division. They take us farther than the wins against the Cubs."
Yet, the importance of Sunday's game wasn't lost on Guillen and his players, in which many moved from the bench to watch on the top of the dugout steps for the final two innings.
"Hopefully we can keep the same intensity for the rest of the season," Guillen said, "because I love the players' intensity in the dugout. It was great when you play those type of games.
"Then all of a sudden you face another team."
The Sox will be hard-pressed to find two pitchers as dominant as Greg Maddux and Prior were as the Cubs held the Sox scoreless in the final 16 innings.
The only hit Prior allowed was a two-out single to Pablo Ozuna in the third. Prior's most impressive display, however, came in the fourth when he struck out Frank Thomas and Konerko in succession.
Prior came back from a 3-0 count to whiff Thomas on a 92-m.p.h. fastball and pumped his fist, then got Konerko on an 81-m.p.h. curve.
"[Catcher] Henry Blanco called a great game," said Prior, who was on a six-inning/80-pitch limit. "It even shocked me when he called for a 3-1 curve to Thomas and Konerko. I think that set it up for both times the at-bats ended, because they probably didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what to expect and just trusted Henry."
The loss snapped Garland's four-game win streak, but he nearly matched Prior pitch-for-pitch.
Garland retired the first 10 batters and pitched to only two batters over the minimum through five innings.
He received a lift in the fifth when Ozuna ranged behind second to prevent Todd Hollandsworth from getting an RBI single, turning it into an inning-ending force play at second.
"It evens out," Garland said. "What goes around comes around. Early in the game I was throwing good strikes. I told myself, 'Stay right there.' I made a few mistakes they missed, and I threw a few good pitches they hit."
A stiff wind knocked down a potential homer by the Cubs' Derrek Lee in the first, and Konerko saw the same happen to him on a deep drive to right in the second.
But the Sox's pitching script went about as well as could be expected in a quirky way. Jerome Williams, who was bumped to the bullpen when Prior returned, pitched two scoreless innings.
Williams put the leadoff man on in each of his two innings but escaped unharmed. And closer Ryan Dempster redeemed himself after a leadoff walk in the ninth by inducing pinch-hitter Carl Everett to hit into a game-ending double play.
"There will be many times we lose two again," Garland said. "It's not the last time it will happen. We'll rebound."
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