Lucky breaks

Forget about Achilles' tendons and sacroiliacs and triceps and sneeze-induced back spasms.

The latest in a long line of Cubs medical ailments was revealed Monday at Wrigley Field when Greg Maddux left in the seventh inning of a 3-1 victory over Houston with a mild strain of a rib-cage muscle.

"I was more tired than anything," said Maddux, who left the field with trainer Dave Groeschner. "There's nothing wrong."

Maddux earned the 293rd win of his career, pitching through intermittent showers and limiting the Astros to one run on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.

But the Memorial Day crowd of 39,380 probably was lip-synching the same two words when Maddux left in the seventh: "Not again."

Manager Dusty Baker wasn't worried after watching Maddux's mound demeanor.

"He didn't seem real upset or concerned about it," Baker said.

Maddux doesn't seem real upset or concerned about anything, though, maintaining the same low-key persona despite the circumstance. It's hard to know whether he's hiding pain or really not worried, though he insisted the injury on his right side had nothing to do with his leaving the game.

"I came out of the game because I was done," he said. "I was tired. I was ready to come out."

Maddux plans to throw on the side Thursday and doesn't plan to miss his next start, scheduled Saturday against Pittsburgh. Groeschner said Maddux has had the injury "from time to time" in his career.

"It really wasn't affecting his pitching, obviously," Groeschner said.


Todd Hollandsworth's broken-bat double off Roy Oswalt (3-4) and an RBI single by Ramon Martinez gave Maddux a 1-0 lead in the second, and Moises Alou added a two-run homer in the fifth, his 13th of the year.

After two losses last week in Houston started a five-game losing streak, the Cubs appear to be out of their May malaise as the calendar turns to June.

"It was huge to win," Alou said. "Houston's got a great team, great starting pitching, a great bullpen. I mean, they have it all. You have to really bring your game when you play those guys. We did today, and Maddux did a heck of a job.

"It was kind of an ugly day. We didn't know if we were going to start on time, and it started raining during the game. [Maddux] blocked all that out."

The Astros' only run came on Lance Berkman's solo homer off Maddux in the sixth. A fine grab of a line drive by first baseman Derrek Lee saved a run in the seventh, and Kyle Farnsworth struck out Adam Everett on a slider to end the threat.

Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins and Joe Borowski closed it out for Maddux, with Borowski notching his ninth save. In his latest tightrope act, Borowski put the tying runs on base in the ninth before retiring Everett on a fly to left to end it.

Borowski isn't worried about his job status, though it seems at times like he's on double-secret probation with jittery Cubs fans.

"Everybody is supportive," Borowski said. "I don't think anybody is saying this, that or the other thing, or questioning anything. Everybody has a job to do, and everybody has to worry about what their jobs are."

Maddux is looking forward to having Mark Prior rejoin the rotation. It was announced Monday that Prior would make his first start Friday. In another three weeks, the Cubs may have their highly touted quintet—Maddux, Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement—together for the first time.

"That's one of the reasons why I was excited about coming here this year, to watch Woody and Prior, 'Z', Clement ... all those guys," Maddux said. "It's fun to watch good pitchers."

The Cubs improved to 27-23 and started their 10-game homestand on the right note.

"We've been surviving," Baker said. "We just want to stay close until we get all our guys back, and then let's go for it."