Braves chase Prior, top Cubs with three-run seventh

CHICAGO (AP) -- Two bunts, a bad throw and a tricky hop turned

around the Atlanta Braves' day and sent Mark Prior and the Chicago

Cubs to another numbing defeat at Wrigley Field.

Shortly after a throwing error by Prior, Rafael Furcal hit a

two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning that deflected off

sure-handed Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee as the Braves rallied

Wednesday for a 3-1 victory.

"The ball ate him up. If anybody can make it in all of

baseball, it would be Derrek Lee," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.

Prior (9-5) gave up just one hit in the first six innings,

Andruw Jones' single to center in the fourth.

After the Cubs took a 1-0 lead against Braves starter Jorge

Sosa, rookie standout Jeff Francoeur led off the seventh with a

bunt single.

"I felt like it was a big enough moment in the game where we

needed to get something going," Francoeur said. "Right when I hit

it, I figured it was one of my best bunts ever. I was a little

shocked. The last time I tried to bunt I got hit in the face last


When Ryan Langerhans followed with another bunt, Prior attempted

to get the force at second. Instead, he threw it into center field.

"It just kept flying," Prior said.

"Jeff did a great job of hustling and making Prior rush the

throw," Langerhans said.

"I thought he would go to first," Francoeur said. "It was a

break for us that he threw it a little high. It's a tough throw for

any pitcher."

The error put runners at first and third, and Langerhans reached

second on Prior's wild pitch. Pinch-hitter Adam LaRoche fanned for

the second out of the inning, but Furcal hit a hard shot that Lee

couldn't handle.

"I can't say I normally get that one. It was a tough hop, kind

of hit or miss," Lee said. "I threw my glove at it, got my glove

on it, but it didn't stick."

Francoeur scored easily and Langerhans also came home, sliding

in ahead of second baseman Todd Walker's throw.

"I kind of looked back, I found the ball and saw that Walker

hadn't quite got there yet, so I just kept going," Langerhans


Furcal then stole second and scored on Marcus Giles' RBI single,

chasing Prior after 131 pitches. He gave up four hits and three

runs in 6 2-3 innings.

"I was probably a little tired," Prior said. "I was looking

for a ground ball and I got it and it took a bad hop."

Starting in place of Mike Hampton who was put on the disabled

list Tuesday night with a sore back, Sosa (9-2) allowed four hits

and a run in six innings. The Cubs' only run came in the third,

when Matt Lawton walked, stole second and scored on Walker's

two-out double.

Sosa escaped a first-inning jam when he dropped a throw for an

error and Walker singled to put runner at first and third with no

outs. But Lee flied out and Aramis Ramirez grounded into a costly

double play -- he strained his left quad muscle running to first and

had to leave the game.

Sosa gave up a leadoff double to Lee in the sixth when his drive

to center bounced off Jones' glove. But after a sacrifice, Sosa

retired Jeromy Burnitz on a short fly and Neifi Perez on a

groundball to strand Lee at third.

"I thought Sosa maybe pitched his best game ever today," Cox


Lee got another double in the eighth when Jones missed his

sinking liner, but former Cub Kyle Farnsworth then got Jose Macias

on a grounder to 47-year-old first baseman Julio Franco.

Farnsworth struck out the side in the ninth for his first save

with the Braves.

Ramirez, the team's RBI leader with 92, pulled up and stumbled

over the first-base bag while running out the double play grounder

in the first. He was replaced by Macias to start the second.

Game notes
Cubs SS Nomar Garciaparra worked out before the game and

the Cubs delayed a decision on whether to put him on the disabled

list with a sore back. Garciaparra was out of the starting lineup

Wednesday for the fifth time in six games. The Cubs are off

Thursday and will see how Garciaparra responds Friday. Ronny Cedeno

was called up from the minors and was in the clubhouse but was not

activated. Garciaparra has already missed 3½ months with a groin

injury and doesn't want to go back on the DL if possible. ...

Hampton is back on the disabled list for a fourth time this season,

sidelined by a sore back. Hampton, who's also been bothered by a

sore forearm this season, had just returned Aug. 14. He had been

hit hard in his two starts since returning, giving up 20 hits and

10 earned runs in 8 1-3 innings. He is eligible to come off Sept.

4. Hampton is 5-3 in just 12 starts with a 3.50 ERA.