星期三, 4月 26, 2006

Maddux improves to 4-0 as Cubs dominate Cardinals


ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Greg Maddux is turning back the clock for a team missing its offensive star and two of its best pitchers.

The four-time NL Cy Young Award winner, who turned 40 earlier this month, threw seven scoreless innings on Sunday to help the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-3. He has won his first four starts for the first time in his career, to go with a miniscule 0.99 ERA.

Maddux's big start is helping rescue a team that doesn't have Derrek Lee, Mark Prior or Kerry Wood.

"It's just amazing what he does because he's not throwing 94, 93 mph," outfielder Juan Pierre said. "You watch Greg Maddux, that's an art."

Maddux (4-0) held the Cardinals to five hits and also singled and scored, helping the Cubs avert a three-game sweep and win for the first time in three games since losing Lee for at least two months with a broken wrist. This is the first 4-0 start for Maddux since 2000 with the Braves when he needed six starts, and it's his first four-game winning streak since July 17-Aug. 7, 2004.

All month, Maddux has insisted that he's doing nothing different and not trying to fill the void.

"I wish I could explain it," Maddux said. "Personally, I'm just getting ready to pitch like I always have, I'm just catching a lot of breaks.

"Sometimes you catch a few breaks in this game, and right now I am," he said.

Jacque Jones hit his second homer, and second against the Cardinals, leading off the fourth against Jason Marquis (3-1).

Aramis Ramirez, who entered the game in a 3-for-18 slump, hit a two-run shot into the visitor's bullpen beyond the left-field wall in the fifth.

Todd Walker batted in Lee's third slot for the third straight game and had two hits and three RBI to raise his average to .408 for the Cubs, who completed a 5-4 road trip.

"It's nice to get a win without Derrek," Walker said. "We can start believing we can do it."

Albert Pujols, who had six RBI the first two games of the series and entered with the major-league lead in homers (11) and RBI (26), was 0-for-4.

Maddux, the only 40-plus right-handed starter in the major leagues, struck out four and his only walk came to the first batter he faced, David Eckstein. He threw a season-high 93 pitches and lowered his ERA 34 points, mastering the Cardinals for the second time.

"He's not coming with heat; he's never coming with heat," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's coming with a lot of intelligence and a great feel for pitching."

In two starts against the Cardinals, he's 2-0 and has given up one run on nine hits in 13 1/3 innings. Since turning 40 on April 14, he's surrendered one run on eight hits in 15 innings.

Marquis struggled for the first time in four starts this season while facing Maddux, his old mentor from the Braves. He left after the first three batters reached in the seventh, one on his fielding error on Pierre's sacrifice bunt and gave up seven runs -- four earned -- and seven hits.

"I don't know if I struggled all day. I just got away from my game plan and left a few pitches up in the zone," Marquis said. "Some days the mistakes are going be hit out and some days you get away with them."

All four of Marquis' career starts against the Cubs have come against Maddux. He's 1-2 with a 3.90 ERA.

Pierre doubled to lead off the third, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on Walker's infield hit to give the Cubs the lead and Jones' homer in the fourth made it 2-0.

Pierre reached on second baseman Aaron Miles' fielding error on a routine grounder to start the fifth, leading to Ramirez's homer and a pair of unearned runs that put Chicago ahead 4-0.

The Cubs extended the lead to 7-0 in the seventh on Ronny Cedeno's RBI double and Walker's two-run single.

St. Louis got a run in the eighth on Hector Luna's RBI double off Roberto Novoa.

Gary Bennett's two-run double in the ninth ended Ryan Dempster's run of 32 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run. Dempster, who has converted 23 straight saves, last gave up an earned run on Aug. 12, 2005, at home against the Cardinals in a streak that lasted 31 1/3 innings.

Game notes
Cardinals reliever Brad Thompson had to make a quick jump to his side to avoid getting hit by a bat when Michael Barrett lost his grip while striking out in the seventh. ... The Cardinals haven't swept the Cubs at home since 2002. ... The Cardinals have sold out all nine games at new Busch Stadium, including paid attendance of 41,373 on Sunday.


Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer, Jacque Jones added a solo shot and Todd Walker drove in three runs to back Maddux (4-0), who gave most of the bullpen a much-needed day off and stopped a two-game losing streak.

"He's been awesome all year, and today we really needed a stopper," Walker said.

"He gave us the innings, he gave us the quality, he gave us a hit to start a rally, gave us baserunning -- he gave us anything you could get from a position player and a pitcher," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We needed it badly."

This is the first time in his career that Maddux has won each of his first four starts. Not bad for a pitcher who turned 40 on April 14. He opened the 2000 season 4-0 with Atlanta, but achieved that record after six starts. He downplayed the feat.

"We've been scoring a lot of runs, too, so that helps," Maddux said. "Guys swung the bats well. Ramy got the big hit and put us ahead. Defense and runs goes a long way."

On Sunday, the Cubs right-hander struck out four and gave up one walk and five hits -- including three by Scott Rolen -- over seven scoreless innings. The four-time Cy Young winner appears to be turning back the clock. His lowest ERA in a single season was 1.56 in 1994 with Atlanta. Is he a better pitcher now?

"I wish I could explain it," Maddux said of tapping into the fountain of youth. "Personally, I"m just getting ready to pitch like I always have and catching a lot of breaks."

Like having one of Rolen's doubles hit the top of the center-field fence and not go over.

"Sometimes you catch a lot of breaks in this game, and right now I think I am," Maddux said.

"It was vintage Maddux," catcher Michael Barrett said. "He's been able to locate the ball really well early in the count. He's getting the ball down and away. Late in the count, he's keeping guys off balance by mixing his pitches. You can't say much more than vintage Maddux. He did today what he's been doing the last couple starts -- not trying to do too much."

Cardinals starter Jason Marquis (3-1) has seen Maddux's magic act before. The two were teammates in Atlanta, and this is the fourth time they've gone head-to-head.

"The guy is a special player," Marquis said. "He knows what he's doing out there. He's been baffling hitters for a long time, so it's not surprising to see what he's doing."

The good news is the Cubs now know they can win without Derrek Lee.

"We need all the help we can get since we lost our big guy," Walker said. "It was nice to get a win without Derrek. You start believing you can do it."

They still miss Lee, who will see his teammates Monday at Wrigley Field for the first time since he was hurt last week.

"It's tough losing D-Lee because he's such a good person, let alone a good player," Maddux said. "When you play with 24 other guys, some guys are really easy to root for and some you could care less. I think D-Lee is one of those guys who is really easy to root for."

Juan Pierre doubled to open the Cubs' third against Marquis, advanced on Ronny Cedeno's sacrifice and scored on Walker's infield single.

Jones, who entered the game batting .194, made it 2-0 with a leadoff homer in the fourth, his second of the year. In the Chicago fifth, Pierre reached on a fielding error by second baseman David Eckstein and two outs later, Ramirez belted his third homer to go ahead, 4-0. Ramirez also had been scuffling and came into the game batting .189.

"Aramis has been flirting with that fence for awhile," Baker said. "I'm just glad he caught one."

Maddux helped himself in the seventh when he singled, advanced on a wild pitch and on a sacrifice by Pierre before scoring on Cedeno's double. Marquis was pulled, and Walker greeted Brad Thompson with a two-run single. The three RBIs raised Walker's career total to 500.

"A few days ago, I got triple digits in homers," Walker said. "You look back in your career, it's stuff you'll remember."

Pinch-hitter Hector Luna hit an RBI double in the Cardinals' eighth off Roberto Novoa, and Gary Bennett hit a two-run double off Ryan Dempster in the ninth.

Maddux is the only Cubs starter who has pitched into the seventh inning this season.

"It says a lot for experience," Baker said. "He's not doing any more than what his Hall of Fame career has indicated."

This is the last year of the pitcher's contract with the Cubs. Would he like to talk about an extension?

"Let's just play," Maddux said. "It's not the time for that right now. The Cubs have a lot more problems than worrying about me right now. Let's take care of what we need to do to get better quicker and cross that bridge when we get to it."