Throws six shutout innings in return from DL

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- There was a lot going through Mark Prior's mind
Tuesday night: How his arm would hold up after 3{ weeks on the
disabled list, and how his emotions would fare making his first
start in his hometown -- in front of an estimated 100 family members
and friends.

Prior came through just fine, returning from injury and
combining with four relievers on a three-hitter as the Chicago Cubs
beat the San Diego Padres 3-0.

"It was fun," said Prior, whose only other appearance at
Qualcomm Stadium came in the playoffs his junior year of high
school. "You kind of block it out for the most part and you just
go out and pitch. It seemed like we were getting all the breaks,
until maybe the ninth inning when balls were bouncing their way."

The right-hander had been out since July 11 when he hurt his
pitching shoulder in a collision with Atlanta second baseman Marcus
Giles, who's also from San Diego County. Prior left that game
complaining of stiffness in his pitching shoulder and was placed on
the DL the next day.

Prior was forced to miss the All-Star game after being selected
for the first time. But he said his shoulder gave him no problems
Tuesday night.

"The only time I would worry about it was when I got to the
fifth or sixth inning, but everything felt fine and now it's just a
matter now of getting the strength back up and moving my pitch
count up," Prior said.

Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Jaret
Wright. It was his 13th overall and first since being traded to the
Cubs with Kenny Lofton from Pittsburgh on July 22.

Prior (9-5) allowed two hits in six innings, then watched from
the dugout as reliever Mark Guthrie and Ramirez, the third baseman,
helped preserve the victory in the bottom of the seventh.

After reliever Kyle Farnsworth loaded the bases with one out in
the seventh, Guthrie came on and struck out pinch-hitter Brian
Buchanan -- who hit a game-winning, three-run homer in Philadelphia
on Sunday -- after falling behind 3-1.

Gary Bennett then grounded to Ramirez, who gloved the ball about
eight feet behind third base and outraced Ryan Klesko to the bag,
diving glovefirst to touch it for the force.

Joe Borowski pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 24 chances.
Consecutive errors helped the Padres load the bases in the ninth,
but Lou Merloni grounded into a game-ending double play.

Prior was sharp against the Padres and won for the first time in
six starts, snapping a streak of three straight losing decisions.
He struck out six, walked one and allowed just one baserunner as
far as second base. He threw 79 pitches; manager Dusty Baker said
before the game the Cubs would keep him to 85-90 pitches.

"It's a big boost," Baker said. "That was huge, because we
didn't know what we were going to get, but we knew we had a good
chance of getting some quality, because that's how he is. I'm glad
he got the win because he certainly deserved it."

Born and raised in San Diego, Prior had a no-decision against
the Padres in Chicago as a rookie last year in his only previous
appearance against his hometown team.

"He didn't look like he hadn't pitched in three weeks," Padres
slugger Ryan Klesko said. "He was sharp and looked like he had
good command of all his pitches."

Brian Lawrence (5-14), San Diego's opening day starter, lost his
fifth straight start. He allowed one run and six hits in six
innings, struck out three and walked one.

The Cubs scored in the third when Lofton singled to center with
one out and came around on Ramon Martinez's double down the line
past diving third baseman Sean Burroughs. Martinez tried to score
on Sammy Sosa's single to center but was thrown out by Gary
Matthews Jr., a one-time Cubs player.

Game notes
Baker spoke fondly before the game of Padres closer Rod
Beck, whom he managed in San Francisco in the early-to-mid 1990s.
Baker said Beck is one of the most honest and straightforward
players he knows. "He's the same `Shooter' now as when I met
`Shooter,' " Baker said, referring to Beck by his nickname. ...
Lawrence's 14 losses lead the NL and are just one behind Mike
Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman of Detroit.