Denver Mark Prior is back on track, and the Chicago Cubs are rolling at exactly the right time.
Prior pitched six scoreless innings for his first win in more than a month, and the Cubs won their fourth straight by completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with a 5-1 victory Thursday.
"It just goes to show you how strong our starting rotation is," said catcher Paul Bako, who had a two-run single. "We're just happy to have everybody healthy. He looked great. I think he's had great stuff since he's come back."
Prior missed the first two months of the season with right Achilles' tendinitis.
Derrek Lee and Corey Patterson each hit a solo home run for the Cubs, who moved a season-high 12 games over .500 (60-48) and swept Colorado at Coors Field for the first time. It was the Cubs' first sweep against the Rockies in Denver in 10 years -- since they took three straight July 18-20, 1994, at Mile High Stadium.
"It's a tough feat to sweep them here," Chicago manager Dusty Baker said. "We got some key hits and played a great series. ... It starts at one (win) and then it goes from there. We've got to keep rolling."
Prior (3-2) earned his first victory since beating the White Sox, 7-4, on June 25, a span of six starts. Glendon Rusch pitched 21/3 solid innings for his first save. He allowed a two-out triple in the ninth by pinch-hitter Kit Pellow, who scored when Sammy Sosa bobbled the ball in right for an error.
Rusch even added a two-out RBI double in the ninth.
Lee connected for his 22nd homer against Jason Jennings (10-9) with two outs in the second. Patterson homered in the sixth, his 12th of the year.
The Cubs are surging, and now head to San Francisco for Baker's second trip back to the Bay Area to face his former team. Fans already are anticipating Saturday's pitching matchup: Greg Maddux goes for his 300th win against Giants ace Jason Schmidt, who's trying for career victory No. 100. The two are former teammates with the Atlanta Braves.
Prior is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four career starts against Colorado.
"I felt comfortable from the get-go," Prior said. "I made some pitches when I had to. I was more relaxed in pressure situations than I have been."
Braves 6, Astros 5
Houston -- Pinch-hitter Marcus Giles' sacrifice fly drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, and Atlanta beat Houston. With the game tied at 5, J.D. Drew hit a leadoff single and Chipper Jones doubled off reliever Dan Miceli. After an intentional walk to Andruw Jones loaded the bases, Giles hit his lazy fly to right that scored Drew.
Cardinals 2, Expos 1
St. Louis -- Scott Rolen hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning, and Chris Carpenter pitched St. Louis past Montreal. Jim Edmonds also connected for the Cardinals, who have won 13 of 17 to move a season-high 31 games over .500. Jose Vidro had an RBI double for Montreal. Rolen hit his 26th homer over the center-field fence on a 2-1 pitch from Luis Ayala (3-7) in the eighth.
Mets 11, Brewers 6
Milwaukee -- David Wright homered and drove in six runs, helping Victor Zambrano win his New York Mets debut. Wright, who entered with only four career RBIs, hit a three-run homer in the first inning and a three-run double in the fourth as New York completed a three-game sweep.
Marlins 11, D'backs 5
Phoenix -- Carl Pavano pitched into the eighth inning on three days' rest and hit an RBI single, leading Florida over Arizona and snapping the Marlins' season-worst four-game losing streak. Paul Lo Duca and Miguel Cabrera homered for the Marlins, who also stopped a five-game skid on the road. Pavano (12-4) won his third straight
Reds 12, Giants 3
San Francisco -- Aaron Harang pitched seven innings of four-hit ball, and Sean Casey went 4-for-5 with four RBIs in Cincinnati's victory over San Francisco. Adam Dunn's three-run homer capped the Reds' 10-run rally in the eighth inning against San Francisco's miserable bullpen. Dunn hit his third homer in two days, and Casey had a two-run single as Cincinnati padded its second straight victory after losing 11 of 12.
Dodgers 8, Pirates 3
Los Angeles -- Milton Bradley hit two home runs, including one of three straight by Los Angeles in the first inning, and the Dodgers beat Pittsburgh to finish its first season sweep of any NL team since moving to the West Coast in 1958.