CHICAGO -- Mark Prior and Brandon McCarthy have been exchanging e-mails since the two met in 2002 in an informal session at Bank One Ballpark. McCarthy was the Chicago White Sox's 17th-round draft pick that year. McCarthy idolizes the Cubs pitcher so much, his nickname is "McPrior."

But when McCarthy e-mailed Prior about Sunday's game between the Cubs and White Sox, Prior didn't reply. He delivered his answer on the mound.

Prior threw a six-hit complete game to lead the Cubs to a 4-3 victory over the White Sox as the North Siders avoided being swept in the intracity Interleague series. Jason Dubois hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning to back Prior (4-1), who notched his first complete game since Aug. 15, 2003.

"The kid wants to learn," Prior said of McCarthy, who did not get a decision in his Major League debut. "We've e-mailed back and forth over the last couple years, him looking for advice on what to do in different phases of his career.

"He e-mailed the other day and said he wouldn't ask for advice since I was starting against him," Prior said. "I didn't e-mail him back."

Prior gave up three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out seven in front of a packed crowd of 39,334 at Wrigley Field. The White Sox still have a 24-21 edge in the Interleague series, which began in 1997 and will resume June 24-26 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Prior had thrown 108 pitches through eight, and finished with 126. Cubs manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Larry Rothschild had set a limit of 110, and Ryan Dempster was warming up in the pen just in case. When Paul Konerko hit a solo homer with one out in the ninth, the Cubs reconsidered their strategy. They probably would've had to rip the ball out of Prior's hands.

"Mark said in the seventh he wanted that one," Baker said. "That's what you like to hear. You want a guy to tell you, 'Hey, I'm going to close this,' and that's what he did is close it out. When you're not hitting the way you'd like to have guys hit, you have to depend on your pitching."

"You enjoy finishing things that you start," Prior said. "If it was turned over to the bullpen, that's part of the game, too. You can't abandon [the pen] because of some things that happened early in the year. It was nice, a fun time to be out there, Sunday afternoon playing ball."

"I tip my hat to Prior today. He was outstanding," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.

The pitch count will be overanalyzed, especially with Carlos Zambrano experiencing some arm trouble after a 130-plus pitch outing.

"We've gone over this ad nauseum," Prior said. "It is what it is. It's part of the game now. I haven't thrown that many pitches a whole lot. This year I'm averaging 100, 101, 102. Every once in a while you have to go out there and get it done. I thought I felt pretty strong, I finished off pretty strong. There's nothing else I can say."

McCarthy even wears his socks high the way Prior does, although the White Sox pitcher apparently has done that for some time. On Sunday, McCarthy gave up two runs on four hits and one walk over 5 1/3 innings while striking out six, but did not get a decision.

"He pitched well and he had good stuff out there," Prior said of the tall, lanky right-hander. "He'll be a big asset for that organization for as long as he's there."

Prior on the hill
Chi White Sox at Chi Cubs, May 22, 2005
Mark Prior (4-1) picked up the victory with his fifth career complete game and first since beating the Dodgers, 2-1, on Aug. 15, 2003. He fanned seven of the 33 batters he faced to increase his season strikeout total to 59 and career strikeout total to 590, through May 22. His line:
IPHRERBBSOERA
9.0633172.95
Key numbers for Prior:
Pitches-strikes: 126-84; Groundouts-flyouts: 2-14;
Season strikeouts-walks: 59-15; WHIP: 1.00

Henry Blanco started his third straight game in place of Michael Barrett and gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the second when he launched the first pitch from McCarthy into the left-field seats.

Prior retired the first 10 batters he faced before Tadahito Iguchi tied the game with one out in the fourth on his third home run, hitting a ball that landed in the basket rimming the right-field bleachers. Jermaine Dye led off the White Sox fifth with his ninth home run, launching a ball into the backdrop in straightaway center to put the Sox ahead, 2-1.

McCarthy hit Derrek Lee to open the Cubs' sixth and was pulled one out later. Corey Patterson singled off Luis Vizcaino and Dubois followed with his fifth home run.

"I was trying to get a base hit," Dubois said. "With Derrek Lee on second, I was trying to get something on the outfield grass to get him in and tie the game. I got lucky, got it up in the air and the wind helped it out a little bit."

What was even bigger was the timing of Dubois' homer. The Cubs have struggled with runners on and two outs.

"We get two-out hits, it's a sigh of relief because those hits mean the most during the game," Dubois said.

The White Sox got lucky in the first when they deked Lee at second base. Shortstop Juan Uribe told Lee that Jeromy Burnitz's double was actually foul. Lee did get to third, but most likely would've scored.

"I guess that's gamesmanship," Baker said. "That's not how we're taught to play. You don't tell anybody it's a foul ball unless it's foul ball. We were wondering what happened and all the fans were saying, 'It's two outs,' which D-Lee knew. [Uribe] stood in front of the base and said, 'Foul ball.' That's not proper etiquette if there is such a thing."

"I fell for the okey doke," Lee said. "He told me it was foul and I believed him, and I shouldn't have believed him. You don't tell someone it's foul unless it's foul. You can get people hurt that way. It's a part of the game, I guess. I should've been a little bit more aware and I fell for it."

The White Sox leave the series still boasting the best record in baseball at 31-13. The Cubs return to National League play against Houston on Monday.

"It's one game," Prior said of Sunday's win, which will allow the Cubs to show their faces in the city. "All you can do is keep showing up and fighting and playing hard. You can't say because of one game, this is going to be the rest of the season. You can't say because of what happened yesterday, that's the way it'll be the rest of the year. As cliche as it sounds, that's life."