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CHICAGO (AP)—If Mark Prior had an ounce of uncertainty about his ability to win games, Cubs manager Dusty Baker is hoping its gone now.
Making the eighth start of another season shortened by injuries, Prior (1-5) struck out five while giving up five hits and three walks and hitting a batter. The right-hander won for the first time since Sept. 10, 2005 at San Francisco.
“You get that victory, that’s a huge step. I’m sure his confidence is better. Not to say it wasn’t before, but certainly guys can hide and mask things, but he’s used to winning and when you are not winning it has to affect you some kind of way. So I’m hoping his first win is the first of many to come,” Baker said.
Prior began the season on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, came off it June 18 and went 0-4 in four starts. He went back on the DL on July 9 with a strained left oblique muscle.
“I thought I threw the ball well today. Through the second and fifth (innings) I felt like I was getting in a little of groove, felt like I was getting on top of the ball and located well to righties today. I did some good things today and did some bad things today and move on to the next step,” said Prior who snapped a career-high 10-game winless streak.
Ryan Dempster pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 21st save.
Pirates starter Zach Duke (7-10), who has been undefeated against the Cubs, gave up four runs in the first inning on six hits as the Cubs batted around. Duke came into the game 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA in four outings—three at Wrigley Field—against Chicago.
But Juan Pierre led off with a single and then scored on Cesar Izturis’ groundout. With two outs, Aramis Ramirez doubled and scored on Angel Pagan’s single. Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno had RBI singles up the middle to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
“It’s not something where I look back and say ‘Oh yeah I control this team.’ Because then you go out and get complacent. That thought never crossed my mind,” Duke said.
Duke lasted six innings and gave up five runs on nine hits. He had two strikeouts and walked three.
“He had a rough spot in the first inning,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “If he puts the first inning down they get the one run and more than likely he’s out there for quite awhile today.”
Paulino hit his fifth homer of the season in the fifth inning to make it 4-1.
Prior couldn’t find the strike zone in the sixth inning and the Pirates were able to cut the lead to 4-3. Jason Bay and Xavier Nady walked, and with two outs Prior hit Jose Bautista with a pitch to load the bases. Paulino walked on four straight pitches, scoring Bay and ending Prior’s outing.
Catcher Michael Barrett didn’t want to discuss Prior’s troubles in the sixth inning.
“I just think that today was a great game for him. We just need to forget that and now think about the fact that he got his first win and go from here,” Barrett said.
Will Ohman relieved and struck out Duke with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Murton hit his sixth homer in the sixth to make it 5-3.
The Pirates drew within one again when Nady drove in a run with a groundout in the eighth inning.
But Pagan’s solo shot in the eighth against Matt Capps gave the Cubs an insurance run.
SS Jack Wilson missed his third straight game with tightness in his right calf. He is day-to-day. … Murton is 10 for his last 22 after going 2-for-4. … Duke is 1-8 on the road this season.