CHICAGO (Ticker) -- No one can blame
don't make the playoffs.
Prior struck out 13 in 8 2/3 innings en route to his eighth win in nine starts and
drove in three runs as the Cubs edged the
New York Mets
Chicago remained 1 1/2 games ahead of first-place Houston in the National League Central Division and moved within 2 1/2 of the
for the wild card. They have stayed in the thick of the playoff race behind Prior, who has eight of the 20 wins recorded by Chicago starters since the start of August.
"Everything for me right now is uncharted territory and will be until I'm around six or seven years," he said. "It's a pennant race and you have to get your job done."
Prior (16-6), who had a personal seven-game winning streak snapped on Thursday, bounced back with a dominant effort against the Mets. He gave up two runs and six hits while walking one.
"We knew they would jump on fastballs," Prior said. "So I started pitching backwards by throwing changeups, and it got me out of some situations."
"At first, he didn't have his rhythm, but he got stronger towards the end," Chicago manager
said. "Mark has been great. He his, pitches, plays defense, comes to play every day."
The 23-year-old righthander was denied a chance at his fourth complete game of the season after allowing an RBI double to rookie
with two outs in the ninth. Prior threw 82 of 124 pitches for strikes.
walked pinch hitter
before striking out
to notch is 30th save and secure Chicago's 12th win in 16 games.
The Cubs had gone five games without a home run before Sosa - who produced a run-scoring grounder in the first - ripped a two-run shot off Mets starter
Jae Weong Seo
(8-12) in the third.
"I just hung in there until he made a mistake and I took advantage of it," Sosa said.
It was the 534th career home run for Sosa, who tied Hall of Famer
for 11th place all-time. Sosa reached 35 homers for the ninth consecutive season.
The Cubs manufactured a run in the first as
reached second on an inning-opening error by second baseman
, took third on a sacrifice by
and scored on Sosa's grounder.
Prior allowed the leadoff hitter to reach in each of the first four innings. He escaped the first two unscathed, but Cedeno homered to open the third - the Mets' first extra-base hit in three games.
Chicago reclaimed the lead in the bottom half. Grudzielanek reached on an infield hit with one out and Sosa followed with his first homer since September 7.
"It was a fastball away and I thought it would stay in the park, but it went out," Seo said. "It was a good pitch, but I think he was was waiting for it."
The Mets did not threaten again until the fifth, when Garcia hit a one-out double and advanced on a grounder. Prior recovered to strike out slugger
and did not allow another hit until
's one-out single in the ninth.
"He's tough and he gets ahead and the gun says 95, but he's so deceptive," said Mets first baseman
, who had two hits off Prior. "After he'd get us to chase a fastball upstairs, he'd throw a slider in the dirt that we couldn't lay off."