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Prior!

I could have written that Sammy Sosa was the story of this game, what with him hitting two very meaningful home runs that accounted for all the Cub runs in their tightly-played 3-1 win over the Dodgers today.

But that would be discounting the incredible effort of Mark Prior, who allowed five hits and one run, striking out nine, and threw a complete game in a swift two hours and fourteen minutes.

I can't say enough about how smart Mark Prior is. And look! I'm going to give credit to Ron Santo. I happened to be listening to the first inning on the radio, and after Prior walked Dave Roberts leading off the game on four pitches, both Santo and Pat Hughes noted how uncharacteristic that was for Prior. And Santo actually contributed some baseball analysis, saying that maybe Prior didn't like the way the mound was, and perhaps he had been stepping into the footprints that Kevin Brown had left earlier in the inning.

Whatever happened, Prior figured it out and settled down and even after Roberts stole second, he got Shawn Green on a fly ball and then struck out Jeromy Burnitz, and it wasn't even close afterwards, since Sosa hit his 27th and 28th homers of the year (now only seven off the league lead), for his 61st career multi-homer game.

THAT is important too, as so many times we have all remarked about how Sosa is a streaky hitter, and often at this time of year he can go on a run where he hits ten homers in a week. This would be a very opportune time for such a streak, with the upcoming seven games at home against the Astros (four) and a rematch with the Dodgers (three). The Cubs are under .500 at home, and as we've said all year, this is now the time where a team that has playoff designs, must establish themselves as a team playing well at home.

Big kudos to Augie Ojeda too... look, I know the guy can't hit. But he made a stellar defensive play, saving a hit in the 9th inning, and probably keeping Prior in the game.

Pitching matchups for the Houston series:
 
Monday: Wood vs. Miller
Tuesday: Zambrano vs. Redding
Wednesday: Estes vs. Robertson
Thursday: Clement vs. J. Fernandez


And, I look forward to the rematch of Prior vs. Kevin Brown on Friday.

Interestingly, with the Marlins' loss at Milwaukee today, and with the Phillies losing at San Francisco, the Cubs are only 3 1/2 games off the wild card lead, as well as 2 1/2 games behind the Astros, possibly in second place depending on the result of tonight's game between the Braves and Cardinals.

Keep hope alive.