Cubs 3, Padres 0

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SAN DIEGO (AP)—There was a lot going through Mark Prior’s mind Tuesday night: How his arm would hold up after 3 1/2 weeks on the disabled list, and how his emotions would fare making his first start in his hometown—in front of an estimated 100 family members and friends.

Prior came through just fine, returning from injury and combining with four relievers on a three-hitter as the Chicago Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 3-0.

“It was fun,” said Prior, whose only other appearance at Qualcomm Stadium came in the playoffs his junior year of high school. “You kind of block it out for the most part and you just go out and pitch. It seemed like we were getting all the breaks, until maybe the ninth inning when balls were bouncing their way.”

The right-hander had been out since July 11 when he hurt his pitching shoulder in a collision with Atlanta second baseman Marcus Giles, who’s also from San Diego County. Prior left that game complaining of stiffness in his pitching shoulder and was placed on the DL the next day.

Prior was forced to miss the All-Star game after being selected for the first time. But he said his shoulder gave him no problems Tuesday night.

“The only time I would worry about it was when I got to the fifth or sixth inning, but everything felt fine and now it’s just a matter now of getting the strength back up and moving my pitch count up,” Prior said.

Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Jaret Wright. It was his 13th overall and first since being traded to the Cubs with Kenny Lofton from Pittsburgh on July 22.

Prior (9-5) allowed two hits in six innings, then watched from the dugout as reliever Mark Guthrie and Ramirez, the third baseman, helped preserve the victory in the bottom of the seventh.

After reliever Kyle Farnsworth loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, Guthrie came on and struck out pinch-hitter Brian Buchanan—who hit a game-winning, three-run homer in Philadelphia on Sunday—after falling behind 3-1.

Gary Bennett then grounded to Ramirez, who gloved the ball about eight feet behind third base and outraced Ryan Klesko to the bag, diving glovefirst to touch it for the force.

Joe Borowski pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 24 chances. Consecutive errors helped the Padres load the bases in the ninth, but Lou Merloni grounded into a game-ending double play.

Prior was sharp against the Padres and won for the first time in six starts, snapping a streak of three straight losing decisions. He struck out six, walked one and allowed just one baserunner as far as second base. He threw 79 pitches; manager Dusty Baker said before the game the Cubs would keep him to 85-90 pitches.

“It’s a big boost,” Baker said. “That was huge, because we didn’t know what we were going to get, but we knew we had a good chance of getting some quality, because that’s how he is. I’m glad he got the win because he certainly deserved it.”

Born and raised in San Diego, Prior had a no-decision against the Padres in Chicago as a rookie last year in his only previous appearance against his hometown team.

“He didn’t look like he hadn’t pitched in three weeks,” Padres slugger Ryan Klesko said. “He was sharp and looked like he had good command of all his pitches.”

Brian Lawrence (5-14), San Diego’s opening day starter, lost his fifth straight start. He allowed one run and six hits in six innings, struck out three and walked one.

The Cubs scored in the third when Lofton singled to center with one out and came around on Ramon Martinez’s double down the line past diving third baseman Sean Burroughs. Martinez tried to score on Sammy Sosa’s single to center butwas thrown out by Gary Matthews Jr., a one-time Cubs player.


Baker spoke fondly before the game of Padres closer Rod Beck, whom he managed in San Francisco in the early-to-mid 1990s. Baker said Beck is one of the most honest and straightforward players he knows. “He’s the same `Shooter’ now as when I met `Shooter,’ “ Baker said, referring to Beck by his nickname. … Lawrence’s 14 losses lead the NL and are just one behind Mike Maroth andJeremy Bonderman of Detroit.

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