Beating tom-toms for Prior

Tribune staff reporter

Mark Prior has heard the comparisons with Tom Seaver since starring at Southern Cal, and Monday he finally got an opportunity to meet the Mets' Hall of Fame right-hander.

Three days later Prior did his best Seaver imitation at Shea Stadium, shutting down New York for six innings while leading the Cubs to a 6-3 victory.

Though he said he was honored to meet Seaver, Prior downplayed the comparisons.

"The only time I'd ever seen him pitch was on film," Prior said. "It's not a case like where I've watched Roger Clemens and Nolan [Ryan] and got to see how they pitched. There was never anything like, 'All right, I'm pitching like Tom Seaver,' because I don't know how he pitched. I know he was a power pitcher and he threw the ball really well."

Ditto Prior, who allowed one run on four hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking two as the Cubs took two of three games in the series. Sammy Sosa went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, remaining one home run short of the 500 mark.

When reliever Scott Strickland walked Sosa intentionally in the eighth, the crowd of 17,244 booed the decision of Mets manager Art Howe.

"We're not going to let Sammy add to his numbers against us," Howe said. "That's crazy."

Still, Sosa reached base in nine of 13 plate appearances in the series, declining to alter his style to reach 500 homers.

"I feel I'm at the top of my game," Sosa said. "It's not only about home runs. It's about winning as a team."

With runners on second and third and no outs in the first, Sosa lined a 2-1 pitch off Steve Trachsel (0-1) into left to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. With the bases loaded and no outs in the third, he beat out an infield hit to make it 3-1, preceding Moises Alou's two-run double.

"Home runs are what people want to see and the guys whom you notice the most," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "But the game is very simple: He that touches home plate the most wins."

Prior took over from there, striking out Jeromy Burnitz on a 94 m.p.h. fastball to strand two runners in the sixth, his final inning. Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Remlinger helped run the bullpen's scoreless streak to 11 innings before Dave Veres gave up two in the ninth.

In the end, the Cubs made a statement that the ghosts of 2002 have disappeared.

"We came here to play," Sosa said. "And we showed the whole world we can play."

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