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All Prior'd up, Cubs take 2-1 lead
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10/03/2003 11:21 PM ET 
All Prior'd up, Cubs take 2-1 lead
Simon's single, phenom's complete game propel Cubs
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com

Catcher Damian Miller (left) and Mark Prior embrace after Friday's Game 3 win. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Game 3 Wrapup: Cubs 3, Braves 1

CHICAGO -- This was pitcher perfect. A four-time Cy Young winner facing a Cy Young waiting to happen. And the young phenom came out on top.

Mark Prior threw a two-hitter to outduel Greg Maddux and lead the Chicago Cubs to a 3-1 victory Friday night over the Atlanta Braves, moving one win closer to capturing their first NL Division Series.

The Cubs can clinch the best-of-five series with a win Saturday in Game 4. Matt Clement (14-12, 4.11 ERA), who pitched the decisive game last Saturday that won the NL Central, will go for Chicago against Atlanta's Game 1 starter Russ Ortiz. Ticket prices on eBay were up to $1,600 for a pair.

In the 13 times the Division Series has been tied, 1-1, the team that has won Game 3 has gone on to win nine times.

The only NLDS in which a team came back from being down 2-1 to win a five-game series was last year when San Francisco beat the Braves after dropping two of the first three.

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

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Cubs site

Prior (1-0) fanned seven and stymied the hottest offensive team in the National League to a single by Marcus Giles with two outs in the third and a double by pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa in the eighth. DeRosa eventually scored on Giles' sacrifice fly. Prior also walked four.

"They're good hitters, they're patient hitters," Prior said. "I wasn't upset with the walks. I'm not going to throw a pitch down the middle to these guys."

He is the first Cubs pitcher to throw a complete game in the postseason since Claude Passeau did so in Game 3 of the 1945 World Series. It was the second two-hitter in Division Series history. Nolan Ryan also did that Oct. 6, 1981, for Houston. There have been a pair of one-hitters.

Why is Prior so good?

"I've been answering that question since February," Cubs catcher Damian Miller said. "He's a freak. You're not supposed to do that when you're 23."

Pitching in his sophomore season, Prior was making his first postseason start. Maddux was making his 29th. Prior came in on a hot streak, riding a 10-1 record and 1.52 ERA in the second half.

Pinch-hitter Troy O'Leary was on deck in the eighth and would've batted for Prior if his turn came up. But it didn't and when Prior took the field for the ninth, the crowd roared and chanted, "Prior, Prior."

"I don't think there was a question if I was going to finish the game," Prior said. "There was never an argument or discussion whether I was staying in or not. Hey, 130 pitches -- that's my average. I'm used to it by now. I felt great."

He actually was a little off in the beginning because of an unexpected rain shower that delayed the start of the game and threw him off his routine. He hung out in the clubhouse, watched the end of the Florida-San Francisco NLDS game, and admitted to losing his focus a tad.

"It was tough to get back out, not do your full routine again," he said.

 

trade    Postseason debuts

Mark Prior had a spectacular postseason debut for the Cubs in Game 3 of the NLDS, pitching a complete game and allowing one run on two hits. Here is a look at how some other young pitchers since 1980 have fared in highly-anticipated postseason debuts.

LA: Fernando Valenzuela 
1981 Game 1 NLDS vs. HOU
     IP      H   R   ER  BB   K 
ND   8 1/3   6   1   1   2    6

KC: Bret Saberhagen 1984 ALCS Game 2 vs. DET IP H R ER BB K ND 8 6 3 2 1 5

LA: Orel Hershiser 1985 Game 2 NLCS vs. STL IP H R ER BB K W 9 8 2 2 5 4 NYM: Dwight Gooden 1986 Game 1 NLCS vs. HOU IP H R ER BB K L 7 7 1 1 3 5

BOS: Roger Clemens 1986 Game 1 ALCS vs. CAL IP H R ER BB K L 7 1/3 10 8 7 3 5

CHI: Greg Maddux 1989 Game 1 NLCS vs. SF IP H R ER BB K L 4 8 8 8 1 3

ATL: John Smoltz 1991 Game 3 NLCS vs. PIT IP H R ER BB K W 6 1/3 8 3 3 2 7

ATL: Tom Glavine 1991 Game 1 NLCS vs. PIT IP H R ER BB K L 6 6 4 4 3 4

BOS: Pedro Martinez 1998 Game 1 ALDS vs. CLE IP H R ER BB K W 7 6 3 3 0 8

OAK: Tim Hudson 2000 Game 3 ALDS vs. NYY IP H R ER BB K L 8 6 4 3 4 5

OAK: Barry Zito 2000 Game 4 ALDS vs. NYY IP H R ER BB K W 5 2/3 7 0 0 2 5 OAK: Mark Mulder 2001 Game 1 ALDS vs. NYY IP H R ER BB K W 6 2/3 7 1 1 0 5

CHI: Mark Prior 2001 Game 3 NLDS vs. ATL IP H R ER BB K W 9 2 1 1 4 7

--Jared Hoffman


But he did.

"His control is pretty spectacular," Cox said.

"He's good," Maddux said of Prior. "He's got the best pitch in baseball -- he knows how to locate a fastball. When you can locate a fastball, you've got the best thing going in baseball."

"What Prior did on the mound was unbelievable," Chicago's Randall Simon said.

The only negative for the night was that Prior missed meeting Michael Jordan. The former Chicago Bulls star stopped by the clubhouse after the game -- just as Prior was talking to the media.

The Cubs had the home field crowd but not much of an advantage as far as Maddux was concerned. He began his professional career with the Cubs and won his first Cy Young Award in 1992 with Chicago. On Friday, Maddux (0-1) served up two runs on six hits over six innings.

"Maddux is a guy who I've grown up watching when I was a kid," Prior said. "It was kind of surreal to be in the dugout in the first inning to watch a guy I've watched my whole life growing up. He's a great pitcher.

"I picked things up during the course of the game, watching the way he was handling things," Prior said. "I knew it was going to be a pitching battle. I knew two runs might be all I had.

"I was looking forward to this game. I knew win or lose, it was going to be a learning experience and it was going to be fun."

The Pittsburgh connection -- Simon, Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez -- came through for Prior. Lofton, who had never faced Maddux in the regular season, got the Cubs started with a leadoff single and advanced on Mark Grudzielanek's bunt single.

Two outs later, Lofton stole third and Grudzielanek moved to second on the same play as Maddux's ball skipped in the dirt for a wild pitch. Simon then slapped a single to right to score both.

Unknowingly, Maddux actually helped Prior.

"Watching him slow the game down when he was getting hit in the first inning so that he knew he was in control, I think that helped me," Prior said.

Ramirez added a two-out RBI double in the Cubs eighth, scoring Moises Alou, who had singled and stolen second.

A 31-minute rain delay didn't dampen the spirit of the crowd of 39,982, which mocked the Braves' tomahawk chop. The Chicago version isn't quite as synchronized as Atlanta's.

"I'm sure anywhere the Braves go, they're going to hear that," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

The brownstones rimming Wrigley Field were decked in red, white and blue bunting for the first playoff game in Chicago in five years. On Oct. 3, 1998, Maddux completed the Braves' three-game sweep over the Cubs in the NLDS with a win over Kerry Wood.

How big was this? One young couple moved their wedding up two hours from a 7:30 p.m. start so the groom could watch the game. They posed for pictures in front of Wrigley Field a few hours before the ceremony.

"They're great fans. They deserve to go out and party," Prior said.

This was big.

"They're all pivotal right now," Baker said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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