Maddux wins 294th

Chicago CubsPaul BakoCrimeCrime, Law and JusticeWrigley FieldJose MaciasAramis Ramirez

This was the way it was supposed to be, the way the game plan was drawn up over the winter.

You know, the Cubs get stupendous starting pitching and score just enough runs to win games. Well, consider what happened in the just-completed series against the Pirates:

On Sunday, Greg Maddux allowed only one run in seven innings and the Cubs won 4-1, even though the offense produced only two hits in the first six innings.

On Saturday, Carlos Zambrano allowed only one run in eight innings and the Cubs won 6-1, even though the offense poked one measly hit in the first six innings.

On Friday, Mark Prior allowed no runs in six innings and the Cubs' offense scratched for one run, although the result was a 2-1 loss when since-disabled Joe Borowski blew it in the ninth inning.

You get the idea. Cubs starters have allowed two runs in their last 20 innings (0.45 ERA) and the Sammy Sosa-less offense has scored just enough for them to win the series.

"It's going to be a struggle until we get all our [offensive] horses back," manager Dusty Baker said. "[But] the name of the game is to score more runs than the other team."

And it's hard for the other team to win when it isn't scoring.

Now, that might all change come Monday. The slam-bam Cardinals, who are second in the National League in runs scored, come to Wrigley Field for a four-game series. And left-hander Glendon Rusch, who has yet to prove he can consistently pitch with the big boys, starts for the Cubs on Monday.

"We've got to score runs," Aramis Ramirez said of the series against St. Louis. "They're hard to shut down. Our pitching is there. We've just got to score runs."

Ramirez scored the Cubs' first run Sunday to tie the game 1-1 in the seventh inning, and it was one of the strangest home runs in history, one that could happen only in Wrigley Field.

A fly-ball out on other days, Ramirez's ball caught the jet stream blowing out and apparently landed in the left-field basket. But the ball rolled down and plopped out of the bottom of the basket.

When left fielder Rob Mackiowiak saw it at the bottom of the vines, he fired it toward home plate. And even though second-base umpire Gary Darling was signaling home run, Ramirez went sliding headfirst into home plate as the ball arrived.

"I just kept running," Ramirez said.

The Cubs scored another run in that inning, with Todd Hollandsworth scoring on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Michael Barrett.

They tacked on two more in the eighth inning, the first on Jose Macias' pinch-hit single and the second on an error.

The rest was left to new closer LaTroy Hawkins, who struck out Cubs killer Mackowiak with two runners on base. Hawkins, who declined to talk to the media after the game, is now 4-for-6 in save situations.

It was an important save for the Cubs and for Maddux, who recorded career victory No. 294 with "no-hit stuff," according to catcher Paul Bako.

"Paul Bako did really good today," Maddux said. "He called an excellent game and set up good. I thought he made a lot of good calls."

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