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Prior goes the distance

Ace helps Cubs avoid a sweep

CHICAGO -- Mark Prior was determined to stick around and finish what he started yesterday. And his pitch count was no big deal.

''Every once in a while you have to go up there to get it done," Prior said after he threw 126 pitches and finished with a six-hitter as the Cubs beat the White Sox, 4-3, at Wrigley Field to avoid a three-game sweep.

''I haven't thrown that many pitches this year. It's probably the best I've felt," added Prior, who started the season on the disabled list with a sore elbow.

With the wind blowing out at 23 miles per hour, three of the six hits Prior allowed were homers. And a three-run shot by teammate Jason Dubois gave him a 4-2 cushion in the sixth.

Paul Konerko homered in the ninth to cut the lead to 4-3 but Prior got A.J. Pierzynski to fly out to center and struck out Jermaine Dye -- who'd homered earlier --to end the game, pumping his fist in celebration.

With closer Ryan Dempster warming up in the ninth, manager Dusty Baker stuck with Prior, despite his escalating pitch count.

''Mark said he wanted the game very badly. Then you give him the ball and throw pitch counts out the window unless it gets ridiculous," Baker said. ''Another batter or two and we would've been approaching that, but Mark wanted the ball and that's what you want."

Prior (4-1) got his first win since April 25, benefiting from two double plays. He struck out seven and walked one in his first complete game since Aug. 15, 2003, against the Dodgers.

Dubois's homer off reliever Luis Vizcaino (2-2) spoiled the major league debut of White Sox rookie Brandon McCarthy. The 6-foot-7-inch righthander took a 2-1 lead into the sixth, but after he hit Derrek Lee with a pitch and then retired Jeromy Burnitz on a fly ball, he was replaced by Vizcaino. McCarthy allowed just four hits and was charged with two runs in 5 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out six.

Vizcaino got Aramis Ramirez to fly out, but then gave up a single to Corey Patterson before Dubois lifted a long drive to right-center for his fifth homer.

''I got lucky, got it up in the air, and the wind helped it out a little bit," Dubois said.

Dye's ninth homer and third of the series gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead in the fifth.

McCarthy was bailed out by some shaky Cubs base running in the first after walking Lee with two outs. When Burnitz hit a liner past first, Lee hesitated at second and then had to stop at third, perhaps costing the Cubs a run as the ball bounded around in the outfield after hitting a side wall. Ramirez then flied out.

Lee's base-running gaffe was his second in as many games. He was picked off first to end a Cubs' eighth-inning rally Saturday. Baker said Lee stopped at second because White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe told him Burnitz had hit a foul ball.

Henry Blanco, batting .139 and filling in for sore-shouldered starter Michael Barrett, hit his second homer with two outs in the second to give Prior a 1-0 lead.

After Prior retired the first 10 batters, Tadahito Iguchi hit a shot to right for his fourth homer, tying the game.

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