CHICAGO (Ticker) -- As pennant fever grips Wrigley Field,
is taking his pitching to an even higher level.
Prior tossed a seven-hitter - his third straight dominant outing since coming off the disabled list - as the
Los Angeles Dodgers
, 2-1, for their fourth straight win.
The Cubs pulled into a three-way tie for first place in the National League Central Division with Houston and St. Louis. The Astros and Cardinals play Friday night.
It was Prior's first appearance at Wrigley Field since injuring his right shoulder in a baserunning collision with Atlanta's
on July 11.
"I actually had a lot left," Prior said. "Some of the best pitches I threw all day were at the end. Earlier, I felt a little weak and sluggish but in the seventh inning, I got that extra life on my fastball and curveball."
thinks the three weeks Prior spent on the disabled list actually has helped him.
"He had an emotional break and a physical break when he got hurt and I think that will help him down the stretch," Baker said.
After setting a four-game attendance record against the Astros, the Cubs drew 40,188 in the opener of a three-game series against the Dodgers.
They saw Prior (11-5) pitch his second complete game against the Dodgers in five days and outduel Japanese righthander
(0-1), who was making his first major league start in place of ailing
Prior tossed a five-hitter in a 3-1 win over
on Sunday. Since coming off the DL, he has allowed two runs in 24 innings, an ERA of 0.75.
"Every time he pitches he shows me more," said
, who drove in both runs for the Cubs. "He was awesome, no question about it. In tough situations, he makes the right pitches and gets out of it."
Prior only struck out five in this one, but walked none and worked out of jams when the Dodgers threatened.
"He beat us again," Dodgers catcher
Paul Lo Duca
said. "He threw the ball well again today, so be it. What can you do? It's over with."
The Dodgers closed to 2-1 on Lo Duca's RBI single in the eighth, but Prior pitched out of a first-and-third jam by getting
to pop up and striking out
on three pitches.
"My thought process in the eighth was them tying the game and we have to face (Eric) Gagne," Prior said. "But I made a good pitch to get Green to pop up and got away with some stuff to Burnitz, so it was an emotional lift."
The Dodgers were held to one run or less for the 31st time this season.
Kida stepped in for Ashby, who is battling the flu, and limited the Cubs to five hits in five innings. But he did not have success against Sosa, who was just 2-for-15 in the series against the Astros.
"You can't ask our starting pitcher and our bullpen to do anything more than they did," Dodgers manager
said. "Kida exceeded expectations."
led off the bottom of the first with a single and scored one out later when Sosa doubled into the left-center field gap.
doubled with two outs in the fifth and raced home on Sosa's single to left.
"He (Kida) was really poised," Lo Duca said. "He threw the ball well, even though in the first inning he might have been a bit nervous. Other than that, he was effective."
tripled with two outs in the seventh but was left stranded at third as
grounded out to second.
With one out in the eighth, Prior hit pinch hitter
before giving up consecutive singles to
and Lo Duca. Left fielder
let Lo Duca's hit get under his glove, allowing Roberts to move to third.
But Green, who had four hits against Prior in the last two starts, popped out to shortstop
in shallow left field. Prior then overpowered Burnitz to strand the two runners.