PITTSBURGH (Ticker) --
struck out 14 batters in 7 2/3 dominant innings and
drove in three runs against his former team as the
posted a 4-1 victory over the
Prior (17-6) posted his seventh double-digit strikeout game of the season and 13th in 48 career starts. He allowed six hits, won for the eighth time following a Chicago loss this season and improved to 9-1 since being activated from the disabled list on August 4.
Prior matched a season high by throwing 131 pitches and his latest dominant outing helped the Cubs gain ground in the National League Central Division and the wild card races. After failing to gain a game Saturday, the Cubs moved to within one-half game of Houston for the division lead and within 1 1/2 games of wild card-leading Florida.
"We can only worry about what we're doing," Prior said. "Right now it is to just win our games. We can't control what's around us in the rest of the division and in the rest of the National League. We need to sharpen up some things and hopefully next week we'll have a really good week. If we do that, I think we're in good shape."
"It was the same thing on a new day," Chicago manager
said. "Prior stopped them, stopped a very potent offense. These guys have been scoring eight, nine runs a game. We needed this one very badly."
The 23-year-old righthander, who made his major league debut against the Pirates on May 22, 2002, has 235 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings this year. He lost his shutout bid when he allowed
's RBI single in the eighth.
Prior departed with the bases loaded but
struck out pinch hitter
to end the threat.
worked around a walk and a hit in the ninth to secure his 32nd save in 36 opportunities.
"You had to know it was going to be a different game," Pirates manager
said. "Prior was outstanding. He had his best stuff."
Ramirez, who was acquired from the Pirates on July 22, backed Prior with an RBI single in the first and solo homers in the third and sixth. He has 14 homers and 35 RBI with in 57 games with Chicago.
(4-10) lasted just 1 2/3 innings and allowed two runs and five hits. The 22-year-old lefthander struggled with a blister on his pitching hand and had his shortest outing of the season.
Shut down by
on Saturday, the Cubs got going with two outs in the first as Perez gave up three straight singles. Ramirez reached on an infield hit, which scored
with a base hit to right.
"Every time Prior is out there you have to score some runs because it's going to be tough on the other team," Ramirez said. "(If you) supply him with three or four runs it pretty much guarantees him a win."
Ramirez made it 3-0 with a shot to center field off reliever
in the third and capped the scoring for the Cubs by leading off the sixth with a blast to left-center field off lefthander
Before Prior tired in the eighth, Pittsburgh's only threat was in the second when
led off with a triple. But Prior regrouped and struck out rookie
"I really wanted to see if i could shut the door," Prior said. "I didn't expect to get out of it as well as I did. I kind of think it gave us the momentum for the rest of the game."
"Prior is the best of getting out of trouble" Baker said. "After the triple we were hoping strikeout. He got two strikeouts and a pop. He pitches to the situation, if he needs a strikeout, he'll pitch to the strikeout. He's one of the best pitchers that I've seen of pitching to the situation."
After Redman doubled with one out in the third, Prior retired the next 15 in a row. He recorded nine strikeouts in that span before Nunez doubled to right. After striking out pinch hitter
, he gave up Redman's RBI single, walked
and gave up an infield single to
Remlinger came on and recorded Chicago's 15th strikeout of the game. Borowski, who is the first Cub to reach 30 saves since
had 51 in 1998, walked Bay and allowed a single to Mackowiak. But he got Nunez to bounce into a double play to finish Chicago's 15th win in 21 games.