Reds 2, Cubs 1

-- Mark Prior pitched his best game of the season. Still, he couldn't stop the Chicago Cubs' final-week slump that has damaged their chances of making the postseason.

"It's not from a lack of preparation. It's not from a lack of trying. It just hasn't worked out. I don't have a philosophical quote about it. We lost," Prior said Thursday after the loose and pressure-free Cincinnati Reds beat the Cubs in 12 innings for the second straight day.

Chicago fell for the fifth time in six games and dropped a game behind idle Houston for the NL wild card with three games left.

Javier Valentin hit a two-out double in the 12th to give Cincinnati a 2-1 victory, wasting Prior's stellar nine-inning effort that saw him tie his career high with 16 strikeouts.

"I think we all know where we're at right now," Prior said. "I could care less about me personally. It's not about me."

It's mainly about the Cubs' offense -- or lack of it.

Chicago had the bases loaded three times and didn't score, and stranded 12 runners.

"It's tough to lose two 12-inning games in a row, especially when we had opportunities to win the game," a dejected Cubs Manager Dusty Baker said.

"It's tough to lose like this down the stretch."