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Prior Is Sparkling in Cubs' 3-1 Victory

Right-hander throws a two-hitter against the Braves as Chicago takes a 2-1 series lead.

October 04, 2003|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Mark Prior was nervous. After all, he was pitching in the playoffs for the first time and facing Greg Maddux.

"It was surreal to be in that dugout in the first inning and watch a guy I've watched my whole life growing up," Prior said.

"Obviously there is nervousness and a little anxiety. You wouldn't be human if you weren't anxious in this situation. It's the playoffs, you lose and you go home."

It never seemed to bother him.

The 23-year-old right-hander from USC threw a two-hitter and outpitched Maddux as the Chicago Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves, 3-1, Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five National League division series.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 15, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Baseball -- In an Oct. 4 article about the Chicago Cubs-Atlanta playoff series, the score of Game 3 of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and Detroit was incorrectly reported as 3-1. In fact, the Cubs defeated the Tigers, 3-0.

"I was looking forward to this game, win or lose. I knew it would be a learning experience," Prior said. "I knew it would be a lot of fun and something you never forget."

Prior again showed the poise of a veteran and shut down the NL's top hitting club.

"He had great stuff and he's really hard to hit," Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox said. "We didn't hit that many balls hard. He was a little wild early and we didn't take advantage of it."

It was the first complete game by a Cub pitcher in the postseason since Claude Passeau threw a one-hitter to beat the Detroit Tigers, 3-1, in Game 3 of the 1945 World Series.

"If you told me I would go out and throw a complete game, there is no way I would have thought that tonight," Prior said.

Matt Clement will start today when the Cubs try to capture their first postseason series since winning the 1908 World Series. Russ Ortiz, the Braves' 21-game winner who took the loss in Game 1, will go on three days' rest.

The Braves will need to wake up their bats and start catching the ball after making four errors Friday.

Atlanta led the NL in every major hitting category this season: batting average at .284, homers with a franchise-record 235, and runs with 907, another club mark.

But Prior was simply too good.

"This offense is very good, you've got to respect what they can do," Prior said.

He gave up only Marcus Giles' single to shallow right-center in the third and Mark DeRosa's pinch-hit double leading off the eighth. Atlanta spoiled the shutout when DeRosa moved up on a groundout and scored on Giles' sacrifice fly.

Prior, who won 18 games in his first full major league season, walked four, struck out seven and was bolstered by a frenetic crowd at Wrigley Field.

"I tried to stay calm and focused and make pitches," Prior said. "The crowd has been awesome all year."

The Cubs got to Maddux in the first on Randall Simon's two-out, two-run single that followed a stolen base and wild pitch. Aramis Ramirez, acquired from the Pirates during the season just as Simon was, had a two-out RBI double in the eighth, and Prior made it stand up.

"I thank Pittsburgh for letting us have them, and they've been absolutely awesome for us," Prior said.

Maddux lasted six innings, giving up six hits and two runs in his 31st playoff appearance, including 29 starts.

"We've got a good pitcher tomorrow and the best hitting team in baseball. We can still force a fifth game," Maddux said. "We've done it before."

Cox said he's confident the Braves can still win the series.

"I don't feel like we're scrambling. I'm not down at all," Cox said. "All we have to do is win two games and we've done that hundreds of times."

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