Maddux Has 300 Under Control

Right-hander becomes the 22nd to reach the milestone as the Cubs rally to defeat the Giants, 8-4, but he keeps celebration off the field.

August 08, 2004|Paul Sullivan | Chicago Tribune

SAN FRANCISCO — Like a stealth bomber flying under the radar, Greg Maddux tried to sneak to his locker without notice late Saturday afternoon at SBC Park.

But Maddux was quickly ambushed by a dozen teammates who'd been waiting for this moment for a week. Fellow starter Kerry Wood popped the first champagne cork, and in a matter of seconds, Maddux was drenched and drained at the same time.

On a cloudless afternoon in the heat of a pennant race, the 38-year-old Chicago Cub veteran had just joined baseball's immortals, earning his 300th victory in the Cubs' 8-4 win over the San Francisco Giants. Maddux became the 22nd pitcher in major league history to reach that plateau.

"It's pretty special," Maddux said. "I like to look ahead. I've never really looked back. When I'm done playing I'll look back. I'm sure I'll pat myself on the back then. Right now it's about my next start and the rest of the season."

It took two attempts and a comeback from a three-run deficit Saturday for Maddux to reach the 300-win mark, making it difficult for his family to stay calm.

"I was so nervous and so excited," said Dave Maddux, Greg's father. "I saw him after the game and asked him if he was nervous. He said, 'No, not really.' One of us had to be nervous. It's probably best that it was me. It was a great win, and a great team effort, because he didn't pitch real well."

But the Cub bullpen did its job, allowing Maddux a moment to cherish. Instead of overpowering hitters the way fellow 300-game winners such as Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton had, Maddux's secret to success has always been his ability to disrupt hitters' timing by changing speeds and locating his fastball.

What's the one thing that separates Maddux?

"His preparation," Cub Manager Dusty Baker said. "He's as prepared and studies as well as anybody I've ever been around. He asks a lot of questions. He asks questions that sometimes you'd think he would know. But he's trying to learn all the time.

"He's trying to find out different things from hitters, batting coaches, pitching coaches. He studies the opposing managers. This guy is always studying to try and get ahead."

Maddux left the game in the sixth inning with a 6-3 lead, none out and two runners on, bumping fists with Baker. But Maddux didn't acknowledge the cheering, sellout crowd as he headed into the dugout and then on to the clubhouse to wait out his fate after throwing 82 pitches.

Cub relievers Jon Leicester, Kent Mercker, Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins came through.

After the final out, Cub fans held up a large "W" banner, and a graphic recognizing Maddux's achievement was shown on the center-field scoreboard. But Maddux never came back on the field. He didn't feel it would be right to hold a celebration in somebody else's ballpark -- a sign of the humility that his teammates and coaches have come to expect.

Chicago rallied from a three-run deficit to help Maddux (11-7) win his fourth consecutive decision and improve his career record to 300-170.

"It's more of a sense of relief than anything," said Maddux, who gave up four runs and seven hits in five-plus innings, striking out three and walking three.

Everybody thought it would be easier for Maddux once the Giants moved ace Jason Schmidt up a day to pitch Friday, then called up right-hander Brad Hennessey to make his major league debut.

But that wasn't the case through the early innings, when Maddux never looked comfortable on the mound, and Hennessey (0-1) got two early strikeouts against Sammy Sosa.

Maddux gave up five hits and walked three through three innings, throwing 61 pitches.

"He pitched like he always does," San Francisco's J.T. Snow said. "We were a hit away from a big inning, but he made the pitches when he had to. Any time you face him, you're in for a tough game."

It was the first time a pitcher reached 300 wins against a pitcher making his major league debut since John McPherson lost to Cy Young in 1901.

Maddux was picked by the Cubs in the second round of the 1984 draft, then signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent in 1992. He has a major league-record 16 consecutive seasons with 15 or more wins, the last 11 with Atlanta. He rejoined the Cubs as a free agent in February.

No. 300 came nearly 18 years after his first major league win on Sept. 7, 1986, as a 20-year-old rookie. Dodger pitching coach Jim Colborn, who'd been Maddux's pitching coach at triple-A Iowa, predicted that day that Maddux would be someone to watch for years to come.

"He's not a strikeout pitcher, and he probably won't ever win 25 or 30 games in the big leagues," Colborn said at the time. "But he should have a good big league career. He's a good competitor and he's fun to watch, especially knowing that he's just finished his paper route a couple of years ago."


Associated Press contributed to this report.



The 300-Victory Club

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Maddux's Milestones

Key victories by Greg Maddux, who reached the 300-victory mark Saturday:

*--* No. Date Opponent Score IP H R ER BB SO 1 Sept. 7, Cincinnati (at Chicago) 11-3 9.0 11 3 3 3 4 1986 50 July 18, San Diego (vs. Chicago) 4-2 7.0 9 2 2 1 1 1990 100 May 31, San Diego (at Atlanta) 2-1 9.0 5 1 1 4 7 1993 150 Sept. 27, Philadelphia (vs. 6-0 6.0 3 0 0 0 4 1995 Atlanta) 200 Aug. 18, San Francisco (at 8-4 7.0 5 2 2 3 6 1998 Atlanta) 250 July 15, Philadelphia (at 9-5 7.0 4 1 1 2 5 2001 Atlanta) 300 Aug. 7, San Francisco (vs. 8-4 5.0 7 4 4 3 3 2004 Chicago)


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