Cubs 8, Giants 4
It was anything but a dominating outing for the Chicago Cubs' Greg Maddux. Thanks to his teammates, it was a memorable one.
Buoyed by Chicago's hitters, Maddux fought his way through five-plus arduous innings for an 8-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants, becoming the 22nd pitcher in major league history to win 300 games.
"It wasn't his best performance, but it was a victory," Cubs Manager Dusty Baker said. "But you don't win 300 games with your best stuff all the time. You have days when you don't have your premier stuff, and you rely on your defense and your offense and some timely outs."
A four-time NL Cy Young Award winner and 13-time Gold Glover, Maddux is the first National League pitcher to reach the mark since Philadelphia's Steve Carlton in 1983.
Before Maddux, Roger Clemens was the most recent pitcher to tally 300 victories, which he did last season with the American League's New York Yankees.
Maddux, 37, also became the fourth-youngest hurler to reach 300, behind Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Alexander is the only other pitcher to win 300 games in a Chicago uniform, which he did, by coincidence, against the Giants -- then in New York -- in 1924.
After Saturday's win, Maddux was notably humble about what he had done. Reaching 300, he said, only became a goal when he notched his 299th victory.
"I didn't really pitch all that good today, obviously," he said. "It is a sense of relief in a way. Hopefully, we can move on. I don't think anybody got too caught up in it to begin with, but we can put it behind and do what we can to get to the postseason now."
It was Maddux's second attempt to reach the historic milestone. Against Philadelphia on Aug. 1, Maddux left after six innings trailing 3-2. Chicago went on to win that game, 6-3.
A sold-out SBC Park crowd of 42,578 -- actor and Cubs fan Jim Belushi among them -- was on hand to witness Maddux's record-setting afternoon, which kept Chicago (61-49) atop the standings in the National League wild-card race.
San Francisco rookie Brad Hennessey (0-1) lost in his major league debut. The Giants (59-53) fell 71/2 games behind Los Angeles in the NL West.
For Maddux (11-7, 3.99 ERA), it was an achievement 19 years in the making.
He made his first career start with the Cubs on Sept. 7, 1986, pitching a complete game against the Cincinnati Reds en route to an 11-3 win.
Since then, for Chicago and Atlanta, where he played from 1993 to 2003, Maddux has established himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game. No other pitcher has won 15 or more contests in 16 consecutive seasons, which Maddux has done since 1988.
During that span, he also has amassed more victories (281) and pitched more innings (3,782) than anyone else in baseball. His 2.76 ERA over that period is second only to the Boston Red Sox' Pedro Martinez (2.58).
In recent years, the speed of Maddux's fastball has dropped to the mid-eighties, but he has adapted for the loss of arm strength with an arguably unmatched blend of off-speed craftiness.
"He studies as well anybody I've ever been around," Baker said. "He tries to learn all the time. He studies opposing managers. . . . He studies film. This guy's always trying to get an edge."
On Saturday, he needed every trick in his bag to avoid his 171st career loss.
Maddux gave up a triple to San Francisco's Ray Durham to open the game and seemed unable to establish a rhythm, falling behind 3-0 after a third-inning, two-run triple by A.J. Pierzynski. But Chicago came to Maddux's aid, taking a 4-3 lead in the fourth after a two-out double to right-center by Derrek Lee. The Cubs added two runs in the sixth courtesy of a two-run homer by Corey Patterson.
Meantime, Maddux held on, exiting in the bottom of the sixth with no outs. His line for the game -- seven hits, four runs, three walks and three strikeouts on 82 pitches, 52 for strikes -- was hardly among his career best.
But it proved good enough. San Francisco threatened to score several times after Maddux left, yet five Chicago relievers managed to stave off the Giants, and a two-run, eighth-inning shot by Moises Alou sealed the win.
Asked to put his accomplishment into perspective, Maddux said that he would have plenty of time to reflect on his career when it was over. "You can't put your own personal achievements ahead of the team, obviously," he said. "You do what you can to give your team the best chance to win. That's it. If you do that, you can sleep good at night."