CHICAGO - After nine weeks on the disabled list, Mark Grudzielanek savors the chance to play in any game, especially the spiced-up atmosphere of Cubs-White Sox.
Throw in a glaring sun, a tricky wind and a noisy crowd that turned fly balls into an adventure, and Friday's interleague opener, won by the Cubs 7-4, had yet another twist.
"It was a situation, too, where the fans, there was some electricity going on out there; you couldn't really hear each other to call each other off," said Grudzielanek, who hit a fifth-inning homer.
"The wind was blowing like crazy and the sun definitely made it more difficult. You saw that on both sides. It was tough to communicate."
Grudzielanek, wearing a boot on his sore Achilles' tendon after the game, picked a good time for his first homer and RBIs of the season.
A sellout crowd of 39,596 watched his three-run shot give the Cubs the lead and Mark Prior the victory at U.S. Cellular Field, where the Sox made three errors.
"It was a football atmosphere, really," said the Cubs' Todd Hollandsworth, who got to be a DH in the AL park and had two hits, including a run-scoring triple.
"The crowd was into every pitch. You wish you could do it every day."
Trailing 6-1, the White Sox made a game of it when Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer off Kyle Farnsworth with two outs in the eighth.
"For the most part today, it was kind of a nonenergy game, kind of ho-hum," Konerko said.
"It got a little interesting at the end, just a little bit too late. They just kind of outplayed us in every aspect. They were good, we weren't too good."
Ramon Martinez homered in the ninth for the Cubs to make it 7-4.
Struggling with his pitch count, Prior allowed two hits and a run in five innings, walking three and striking out six. He departed after throwing 99 pitches.
Aggressive and a bit wild, Prior got the crowd buzzing early by busting high-and-tight fastballs to Aaron Rowand and Frank Thomas. He also pitched out of an early jam.
The White Sox loaded the bases in the first on Thomas' single and walks to Carlos Lee and Jose Valentin before Konerko flied out.
In the fourth, Lee walked again, stole second, moved up on Konerko's infield single to short and scored on a wild pitch by Prior that sailed high off the tip of Michael Barrett's glove.
But the 1-0 lead didn't last long. Jon Garland was roughed up in the next two innings, with his error starting the Cubs on their way.
Garland, a first-round draft choice of the Cubs in 1997, gave up a leadoff single to Hollandsworth in the fifth and threw wildly on a pickoff attempt, allowing him to race to third. Barrett followed with a grounder to tie it.