Game One Hundred Three – Cubs 4 Cardinals 2
Whether Saturday was Greg Maddux’s last with the Cubs at Wrigley does not matter the way he pitched and the appreciation shown from the Cubs Faithful was unbelievable to see. Saturday was unofficially Greg Maddux Day at Wrigley and the Ole Professor was at the top of his game. Forget the fact he won his second game in a row, forget the fact the Cubs won their 3rd straight, forget the fact the Cubs beat the Cardinals but remember Saturday as the day Greg Maddux stepped up and performed in unbearable conditions and pitched his best game since May 1st….this was vintage Greg Maddux.
When he left the field the baseball fans that “just go to Wrigley for the event” stood up and applauded and the lasting image of Maddux tipping his cap in appreciation was one of those rare events that should be cherished and remembered. Greg Maddux stepped into the dugout with his team ahead but most importantly the last impression he left on the Faithful was that of a winner….something he has and always will be. Maddux pitched into the 7th but was unable to record an out. He allowed on 1 run on 5 hits, struck out 6 and the most important stat….no walks. After a rough 1st inning, Maddux settled in and retired the next 15 of 16 batters he faced allowing just 1 hit, a single by So Taguchi off of his leg in the 3rd, until the Rolen double in the 7th. Maddux kept the Cardinals guessing all day without throwing a pitcher faster than 86 MPH….again, he was on the top of his game. The Cubs defense was very solid behind Maddux, something at this stage in his career he must have. Jacque Jones, Ronny Cedeno and Aramis Ramirez stood out defensively on Saturday and kept the Cardinals from having those extra opportunities that create losses. With the heat on Saturday it was questionable if Maddux would take the mound in the 7th so after his sacrifice bunt in the 6th, most of the crowd showed their appreciation to Maddux but when Dusty removed him in the 7th, he was given the appreciation that he deserved.
After the Rolen double, Dusty made the slow walk to the mound and motioned for Michael Wuertz. When Maddux started off the mound all 41,302 in attendance, even those “other fans” stood and applauded. And when Maddux tipped and waived his cap, in a very uncharacteristic move, the ultimate teammate showed his appreciation. It was a magical moment.
Michael Wuertz and Scott Eyre did a fine job in relief and Ryan Dempster recorded his 20th save on the season and while it might not have been “pretty”, he still recorded the 27th out and that is all that matters to give Maddux career win number 327.
The Cubs did just enough to win the game that included another episode of “The Further Adventures in Baserunning” but this time it was different than any other this season, on Saturday it worked in the Cubs favor….and for the third day in a row, with a little help from Scott Rolen.
The bottom of the 2nd was incredibly ugly but effective. John Mabry led off with a walk after obviously being hit in the foot by a pitch and moved to 2nd on a bloop single to center by Angel Pagan. Cedeno blooped another single and Chris Speier held the slow Mabry at 3rd….well Pagan did not see that and kept running toward 3rd. Mabry broke for home, David Eckstein threw to 3rd, Pagan was safe, Rolen argued and never threw to the plate in an attempt to get Mabry….he had plenty of time. Greg Maddux then squared to bunt, Cedeno left early, got caught in a run down, Pagan broke from 3rd and scored….Cedeno safe at 2nd. Juan Pierre then extended his hitting streak to 11 with a single to right but Cedeno was blocked from the plate and tagged out to end the inning. Those two unlikely runs were the difference in the game and both Pagan and Cedeno were credited with stolen bases.
The Cubs added 2 more runs on the afternoon. Juan Pierre led off the 5th with a triple down the right field line and scored on a double to left by Barrett. In the 7th after Barrett singled, Ramirez doubled and Jones walked to load the bases, John Mabry came to within a few feet of a grand slam but the sacrifice fly scored Barrett from 3rd.
With the win the Cubs were able to get over the hump and get below 20 games under .500. While that is nothing to really write home about….for this team it is. They have been playing very good ball of late and if Zambrano could out pitch Carpenter on Sunday, a 4-game sweep and a season high 4-game win streak would be the result.