You might say the Cubs' hopes Saturday rested on the wind and a prayer.
Or you might rather say it was a wing of a player named Maddux.
Whatever, the result was a 5-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that, coupled with a St. Louis defeat, moved the Cubs back to within seven games of first place in the National League Central Division.
With the wind blowing in, only a vintage performance from Greg Maddux and the prayer that Cubs hitters would awaken from a two-week funk could turn things around.
Guess what? Not only was Maddux as good as he ever was, but Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou and Corey Pattersonthree of those with lumber in a slumberall defied the wind with long home runs.
But the headlines go to the 38-year-old Maddux, only three victories short of the 300 plateau for his career, who should wish July 17 had a "Groundhog Day" scenario.
His last complete game was July 17, 2003, when he was with the Atlanta Braves.
His last shutout was July 17, 2001.
His most important game as a second-time Cub, so far, was July 17, 2004.
He gave a much-needed lift to the sagging Cubs' hopes and gave a tiring bullpen a much-needed day off.
"As far as days to pitch on, this is probably as easy as it gets," Maddux said.
"It was cool and the wind was blowing in. All the mistakes seemed to get hit right at people. I got away with a lot of bad pitches."
Sure, that's what he always says.
But catcher Paul Bako said Maddux (8-7) was "great. He was like he was the second half of last year."
Last year with the Braves, Maddux was 9-3 after the All-Star break, 7-8 before it. And that's good news for these Cubs.
There was plenty of good news to spread around Saturday, including a seldom-seen three-homer day from the Cubs , two against National League ERA leader Ben Sheets.
"Power comes in bunches usually and it did [Saturday]," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
"We know these guys can hit. It's a little disheartening when you're not hitting and you know you can."
Sosa got the offense uncorked with a massive home run to left-center field in the first inning.
Alou hit his to left in the fourth inning and then Patterson hit a two-run shot to right in the eighth inning.
The other run scored on a Luis Vizcaino wild pitch in that eighth, capping a wild day for the 40,033 wind-and-sun-soaked fans at Wrigley Field.
But the applause should go to Maddux, who allowed only six hits but got three double plays, including one off a line drive to end the game.
Sixteen outs came on ground balls, Maddux walked none and he even struck out the side in the seventh inning.
It all seemed so simple, which is the way Maddux likes to keep things, even with the wind blowing in.
"You can still hit home runs," he said.
"Guys were hitting it out in batting practice and we hit a couple in the game. I just tried not to get lazy. Sometimes you can get lazy when the wind's blowing in like that. You still have to pitch.
"I threw a lot of pitches down the middle that they just hit at people. I made some good pitches and got away with a lot.
"Two of the double plays were mistake pitches. Sometimes the ball bounces your way."
Sometimes you just throw better than the other guy and let experience be your guide.
"He has a lot of miles left, a lot of victories left in him," Baker said.
"As an older player it usually takes you a little longer to get your stuff together, but when you get it, you usually keep it together longer."
And that gives the Cubs a prayer of a chance in this second half.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times