CHICAGO – Mark Prior knows how to build up his arm strength after a stint on the disabled list. He’s had plenty of experience.

In just his fourth start since coming off the DL after a line drive fractured a bone in his pitching elbow, Prior looked strong and ready Thursday, pretty much in top form.

He allowed two hits in eight innings and struck out 10 as the Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1.

Prior (6-3) gave up a single to Matt Lawton in the second and a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Tike Redman in the eighth. He walked three, and 79 of his 116 pitches were for strikes.

Todd Walker homered for the Cubs and Henry Blanco, batting .158 before the game, had two doubles off Mark Redman (4-9), who lost his fifth straight start.

Phillies 13, Marlins 7

PHILADELPHIA – Mike Lieberthal and Pat Burrell each hit two homers to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 13-7 victory over the Florida Marlins.

It was an important win for the Phillies, who are trying to make some sort of run to get back in the NL East race. Not only are they trying to catch first-place Washington, they are attempting to knock Florida out of contention before the July 31 trading deadline.

This was the first of a 10-game road trip for the Marlins that includes stops in Arizona and San Francisco; the Phillies opened a 10-game homestand with Los Angeles and San Diego also visiting.

Mets 6, Braves 3

NEW YORK – Mike Piazza hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the eighth inning and David Wright connected twice to lead the New York Mets over the Atlanta Braves 6-3.

Carlos Beltran matched a career high with four hits as the Mets beat the Braves for just the third time in 10 meetings. It was the opener of a four-game series between the NL East rivals.

With the score tied at 3, Beltran hit a one-out double in the eighth off reliever Jim Brower (3-2). John Foster followed by walking Cliff Floyd on four pitches. Braves manager Bobby Cox then brought in Blaine Boyer to face Piazza, who hit an 0-2 pitch over the right-field wall for his 10th homer.

Brewers 4, Nationals 2

MILWAUKEE – Damian Miller atoned for a baserunning blunder with a two-run double off Gary Majewski in the eighth inning that gave Milwaukee a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals

Miller, who was caught trying to score from third on a comebacker to the mound an inning earlier, sent a full-count pitch to the gap in left center to break a 2-2 tie.

Matt Wise (3-2) picked up the win with one hitless inning of relief and Derrick Turnbow pitched a perfect ninth for his 18th save in 20 chances.

Brewers All-Star slugger Carlos Lee struck out four times, stranding six runners on base, half of them in the seventh when he whiffed at a high fastball from Majewski (2-1) for the third out.

American League

Royals 12, Tigers 9

DETROIT – Matt Stairs hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs and Zack Greinke won for the first time since May 31, as the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 12-9.

Greinke (2-11) had lost five straight decisions and hadn’t won in seven starts. He allowed two runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings, walking three and striking out three. Mike MacDougal pitched the ninth for his 12th save.

Devil Rays 3, Blue Jays 0

TORONTO – Casey Fossum and Danys Baez combined on a six-hitter for the Tampa Bay Devil Ray’s first shutout of the season, 3-0 over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Damon Hollins homered and Jorge Cantu had two RBIs for the Devil Rays, who have won just two of their last 13 games.

Before the game, Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella urged his players during a team meeting to have some pride after they went a major league worst 28-61 in the first half.

Piniella did everything he could to win this one, bringing in Baez with two outs in the eighth inning even though Fossum was four outs from a shutout.

White Sox 1, Indians 0

CLEVELAND – Jose Contreras pitched three-hit ball for seven innings to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 1-0 victory over Kevin Millwood and the Cleveland Indians.

The White Sox stopped a season-high three-game losing streak. Cleveland, trying to gain ground on the AL Central leaders, lost for the sixth time in seven games and fell 12 games behind Chicago.

The White Sox improved to 23-9 in one-run games; Cleveland is 14-22, including 0-6 against Chicago.

Angels 3, Twins 2

MINNEAPOLIS – Steve Finley, Maicer Izturis and Adam Kennedy each had two hits and an RBI to lead Los Angeles over the Minnesota Twins 3-2, snapping the Angels season-high four-game losing streak.

Bret Boone, acquired by Minnesota this week after being designated for assignment by the Seattle Mariners, batted third and went 0-for-4. The Twins have lost five of seven and fell 10 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central.

Jarrod Washburn (6-4) allowed just six hits and two runs in 5 2-3 innings for the Angels, who improved to 27-17 on the road. Washburn struck out four and walked one. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth for his 18th save in 20 chances.

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