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Dodger Defeat a Tired Affair

Cubs' Maddux lulls L.A. bats to sleep for eight mesmerizing innings and gets his 321st victory as Chicago wins, 4-1.

April 18, 2006|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Greg Maddux is as much a hypnotist as a pitcher. He makes opposing batters very, very sleepy. His every wish is their command.

The Dodgers fell under his spell for eight innings in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday night at Dodger Stadium that took only 1 hour 59 minutes.

The sluggers were sluggish. There was slumber from the lumber. The lineup was listless.

Making his first start since turning 40 four days ago, Maddux flummoxed the Dodgers, holding them to three hits while striking out six. He walked none, improved to 3-0 and notched his 321st major league victory.

"I heard Julio Franco say a million times that age is just a number," Maddux said. "I used to laugh about it 10 years ago, but I know what he means now."

The Dodgers were without second baseman and cleanup hitter Jeff Kent, who took the day off after getting hit in the head with a pitch Sunday. Kent wore sunglasses in the clubhouse after having his eyes tested, but otherwise was seemingly unscathed. He said his vision is fine, his concussion less than severe.

The pitch from Brad Hennessey that hit him in the left temple was an 82-mph changeup. Kent said he didn't see the ball well because it happened at 7 p.m., right about twilight.

The Dodgers couldn't complain about not seeing Maddux's pitches. It was a clear night and the right-hander's fastballs were in the 85-mph range. However, the movement on his pitches and his pinpoint control formed a lethal combination.

"I've never seen a pitch move as much," said Oscar Robles, who was called up from triple A before the game and filled in at second for Kent.

"From the dugout you wondered why guys weren't hitting him. Then at home plate you didn't see the ball come in fast, but the movement was incredible."

Maddux retired the first nine batters. Rafael Furcal led off the fourth with a single and Kenny Lofton bunted him to second. But Maddux can beat a team in more ways than with his pitches: He caught Furcal leaning toward third and picked him off.

A single by J.D. Drew and a one-out double by Bill Mueller in the fifth produced the only Dodger run. Maddux retired the last 11 batters he faced before giving way to closer Ryan Dempster in the ninth.

"You think you get the same Maddux every time, although there are subtle differences," Drew said. "Tonight he kept the ball just out of reach. Then he sneaks that fastball in to keep you off-balance.

"I tried to be super relaxed so I didn't overswing. But I don't usually do that, so I found myself underswinging. He gets you to take a different approach than normal, and then you have no chance."

At least it doesn't take long.

"When you have Greg Maddux out there, you kind of expedite things," Cub second baseman Todd Walker said.

Walker got the Cubs on the scoreboard with a first-inning home run against Brett Tomko. The major damage came in the fifth when the Cubs scored three runs without hitting the ball hard.

Tomko walked Matthew Murton to lead off the inning and Ronny Cedeno followed with a hit-and-run single to right. Maddux again did it his way -- softly -- blooping a single to center to score Murton.

Juan Pierre bunted for a single and Mueller threw the ball into Pierre's back for an error, allowing Cedeno to score. Walker's sacrifice fly produced the last run.

The loss left the Dodgers at 6-8, one game under Manager Grady Little's preseason goal of a 7-7 start.

"We're still looking to get our full team on the field," he said. "We've had a few monkey wrenches thrown at us."

And one hypnotist.

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