- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO — Greg Maddux always has been a man of little fanfare, so that’s exactly how he handled his 300th victory — with a quiet step into history.

Maddux overcame a shaky start yesterday to become the 22nd major league pitcher to reach that milestone as the Chicago Cubs defeated the San Francisco Giants 8-4 at Pacific Bell Park.

Maddux, who left the game in the sixth inning, never returned to the field after the final out. Fans hollered as he worked his way down the hallway to a postgame interview, and Maddux practically pursed his lips to keep from reacting. It took a near mugging by a bunch of teammates at his locker to finally make him smile.

“It’s pretty special,” he 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.”

Maddux relied on guts, guile and his bullpen to win his 300th game because he never quite found the pinpoint control that has so defined his career.

“Obviously, to win 300 games, you’ve got to have a lot of help,” Maddux said. “I’ve played on a lot of good teams, and a lot of times you’re only as good as the guys behind you. Today was a good example.”

He is the first National Leaguer to accomplish the feat since Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton in 1983. Roger Clemens was the last to do it on his fourth attempt for the New York Yankees on June13 last season.

Maddux needed two tries. He got a no-decision in his first chance last Sunday against the Phillies.

In the clubhouse, Sammy Sosa and several others surrounded Maddux for a celebratory shower of champagne and beer. Once he was soaked, Maddux enjoyed his first visible celebration with a long swig of champagne.

“Here you go, Hall of Famer!” one player said.

Maddux left in the sixth with a 6-3 lead, none out and two runners on, bumping fists with manager Dusty 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.

The Cubs’ relievers came through.

Jon Leicester and Kent Mercker escaped the jam with Chicago ahead 6-4. Mercker retired Ray Durham on a popup to end the sixth inning.

Kyle Farnsworth got Dustan Mohr to ground out with the bases loaded in the eighth, and LaTroy Hawkins secured the win with a scoreless ninth.

After the final out, Cubs 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 onto the field. He didn’t feel it would be right to hold a huge celebration in somebody else’s ballpark — a sign of the humility that his teammates and coaches have come to expect.

“It was fitting. Greg meant what he says. He’s a sincere man,” Baker said. “He pitched well enough to win. You don’t win 300 games with your best stuff all the time.”

The 38-year-old right-hander certainly wanted to get this major milestone over with, and so did the rest of the Cubs — who knew their star pitcher cared more about bringing the focus back to their playoff chase.

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

“It’s more of a sense of relief more than anything,” Maddux said. “Hopefully, we can move on. I don’t think anybody got too caught up in it to begin with. We can put it behind us and do what we can to get to postseason.”

He allowed four runs and seven hits in five-plus innings, striking out three and walking three. Maddux is the second Cubs pitcher to reach 300 wins after Grover Cleveland Alexander did it in 1924.

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 labored and never looked comfortable on the mound and Hennessey (0-1) got two early strikeouts against Sosa.

Maddux allowed 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.”

Todd Walker had a two-run double in the fourth, and Chicago tied the game at 3 on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI single in the fifth. Derrek Lee followed with a go-ahead double to chase Hennessey, who received a standing ovation as he left.

In the next inning, Corey Patterson hit a two-run homer to give the Cubs a 6-3 lead. Moises Alou added a two-run shot in the eighth.

Maddux a four-time winner of the National League Cy Young Award, was picked by the Cubs in the second round of the 1984 draft, then signed with Atlanta as a free agent in 1992. He has a major league-record 16 straight seasons with 15 or more wins — the last 11 with Atlanta. He rejoined the Cubs as a free agent in February.

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