Cubs 7, Cardinals 0

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CHICAGO (AP)—Mark Prior refused to let a long rain delay mess up his day. After a four-hour wait, Prior was ready to pitch, even as a Wrigley Field matinee turned into a night game.

And once again, he was dominant.

“I just relaxed, I took a nap and had dinner and watched the Red Sox,” Prior said Monday night after winning his sixth game in a row by pitching the Chicago Cubs to 7-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Prior, 6-0 with an 0.57 ERA since coming off the disabled list Aug. 5, scattered five hits in eight innings and also had an RBI single in the Cubs’ six-run fifth-inning outburst against Woody Williams.

He walked three and struck out eight in a 131-pitch outing in a game delayed 4 hours, 17 minutes by rain at the start.

“I wanted to stay in, but I had 130 pitches. No reason to go more,” Prior (14-5) said.

The loss moved St. Louis into a first-place tie in the NL Central with Houston, which beat Los Angeles on Monday night. The third-place Cubs are 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals and Astros.

The Cardinals and Cubs are meeting for the final time this season and play a rare day-night doubleheader Tuesday as part of the five-game series. Prior gave Chicago’s bullpen a rest Monday with Kyle Farnsworth throwing the final inning.

Prior can’t offer a concrete explanation for his success the last month. He was on the disabled list July 11 to Aug. 4 after bruising his shoulder in a basepath collision with Atlanta’s Marcus Giles.

“I don’t feel different, the stakes are higher. Maybe that makes me focus a little more. Mechanically I didn’t feel great again,” Prior said.

`I can’t say why I’m doing I guess all right or why I’m not,” he added.

“It’s baseball, it’s a game of streaks and fortunately I’m on the positive side of one.”

Williams (14-7) is not. He failed to get his 15th win for the seventh time, and is winless since July 26 with four losses and three no decisions in that stretch.

He didn’t blame the delay, just himself.

“Everybody has the same wait. It had nothing to do with my performance at all,” said Williams, who gave up 10 hits and six runs in 4 1-3 innings.

“There is no excuse, I put us in a hole. I lost the game for us. That’s that.”

Sammy Sosa hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth. When Moises Alou dumped another single in front of center fielder Jim Edmonds, Sosa challenged his arm and raced to third just ahead of the throw.

Then, the Cubs took off.

Eric Karros followed with an RBI single, Aramis Ramirez walked to load the bases, Ramon Martinez and hit another run-scoring single to make it 2-0. Damian Miller delivered a sacrifice fly and then Prior finished Williams with a line-drive RBI single over short.

Jeff Fassero relieved and Kenny Lofton got an infield RBI single to third before Tony Womack slapped an RBI double to make it 6-0.

Karros hit his 11th homer in the sixth for Chicago.

“They scored some runs, you give him a lead and he’s amazing,” the Cards’ Fernando Vina said of Prior.

The Cubs stranded eight in the first four innings against Williams, leaving the bases loaded in the first when Karros hit into a fielder’s choice andRamirez flied out.

Notes

The Cardinals activated outfielder J.D. Drew, and Eli Marrero and Joe Girardi from the disabled list before Monday’s game. Marrero missed 101 games with a right ankle injury suffered May 11 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in a game called after four by rain. That’s the game being made up Tuesday as part of the twinbill. … The wind was blowing in at 15 mph after the long delay. Announced attendance was 38,410, but Wrigley Field was about half-filled for the first pitch. … With a runner at second and one out in the fifth, Cubs SS Ramon Martinez made a great diving stab of Vina’s grounder and then threw him out, saving a run that would have given the Cardinals a lead. “The play of the game and one of the best plays of the year,” Prior said. Martinez started at short in place of slumping Alex Gonzalez. … The Cubs announced they would activate second baseman Mark Grudzielanek from the disabled list Tuesday. He’sbeen out with a broken hand.

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