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Prior falls short in battle of No. 1s
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07/24/2002 6:30 pm ET 
Prior falls short in battle of No. 1s
Cubs rookie outdueled in battle of top draft picks
By Carrie Muskat /

Mark Prior gave up only four hits and had eight strikeouts, but walked five in seven innings Wednesday. (Aynsley Floyd/AP)
CHICAGO -- That Major League debut stuff is old hat to Mark Prior. Shoot, he was pitching in his 12th big league game Wednesday. This was Brett Myers' first.

Myers had appeared in 60 minor league games last year and made 19 starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before he was called up. Prior started only nine minor league games total.

In Prior's first big league game May 22 against Pittsburgh, the Cubs' 2001 No. 1 draft pick struck out 10 over six innings in a 7-4 win. Back then, Don Baylor was the Cubs manager. Sammy Sosa hit his 17th home run in that game.

Seems like a long time ago.

On Wednesday, Prior was matched up with Myers, the Phillies' 1999 No. 1 draft pick making his Major League debut. It ended up being his first win, too, as the Phillies edged the Cubs, 4-2.

"Both those gun-slingers lived up to their billing," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said.

Besides striking out eight, Prior walked a season-high five batters. He got lucky. Only one of them scored.

"It's part of the game and I can't do much about it," Prior said about some of the calls. "They capitalized on it. That one inning (the sixth) where I just missed off the plate on a fastball for the first one and I just missed high with a changeup -- you can't do much about it. You still have to pitch your game."

The Cubs' right-hander did escape a couple jams. In the third, he struck out Bobby Abreu with the bases loaded to end the threat. With two out in the fourth, Scott Rolen tried to score from first on Mike Lieberthal's double but the Cubs completed a perfect 7-6-2 relay -- Moises Alou to Alex Gonzalez to Todd Hundley -- to get Rolen at the plate.

"Prior was very impressive," Bowa said. "He reached back a couple times. He blew Bobby away with some pitches with the bases loaded (in the third) that exploded."

Prior walked the first two batters in the sixth, both advanced on a double steal and Travis Lee hit a sacrifice fly.

"I'm sure they guessed curveball or off-speed," Prior said of the successful steal attempt. "That's another thing where you're trying to be aggressive and it paid off for them."

In the seventh, Marlon Anderson hit a solo homer, the ninth off Prior this year.

"I didn't think it was going out," Prior said of the 2-0 pitch that Anderson launched into the left field bleachers despite a 14 mph northeast wind. "Sometimes things surprise you. He did what he was supposed to do with that pitch."

And the walks?

    Mark Prior   /   P
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Cubs site

"I'm not upset with the walks," Prior said. "They're going to happen. They're quality pitches that just missed. Sometimes you miss. You don't go out and change how you throw and throw it right down the middle because you don't want to walk a guy. Obviously, you don't walk them but they weren't like they were bad pitches so I'm not frustrated."

"Up here, they zone in and make you pitch," Cubs interim manager Bruce Kimm said. "The hitters are better up here. Two runs over seven innings (by Prior) -- that's outstanding."

The Phillies added a pair in the eighth when Tom Gordon, still trying to find his rhythm after missing the first half with an injury, walked the first two batters he faced. Lee and Lieberthal each hit RBI singles to make it 4-1.

Sosa notched his National League-leading 31st home run with two out in the ninth off Jose Mesa for the final margin. Mark Bellhorn also hit a solo homer in the third off Myers, who seemed very relaxed in his first start.

"Anytime you haven't seen a guy before, you don't know what he does or how he works," Bellhorn said of Myers. "He pitched well today and now everyone knows."

"He pitched great, no question about it," Sosa said of Myers. "He's got a great future. Give him credit. He came out, first time and faced a team and we were playing great and he came out and he acted like he'd been here before. I respect that. He challenged everybody."

Prior didn't really watch the Phillies' phenom.

"I want to know what he's doing in case I face him but I'm not sitting there watching him too much," Prior said. "The time for that is when I'm not pitching. I stay focused on what I'm doing."

Prior's won-loss record (4-3) doesn't show how well he's pitched but his 3.33 ERA in 12 starts does. Since the All-Star break, Prior has given up just four runs over 21 innings and struck out 21.

For the season, Prior ranks third on the team in strikeouts with 86 behind Matt Clement (136) and Kerry Wood (112). And Clement and Wood have 20 starts each.

Myers was a strikeout victim three times against Prior.

"It was pretty hard," Myers said. "I didn't think I had a chance up there and I didn't, as y'all saw."

The Phillies pitcher can only hope he has a first year as good as Prior's.

"That was a great matchup today," Sosa said of the two future stars. "It was about pitching performance."

Carrie Muskat covers the Cubs for This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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