While Cubs manager Dusty Baker was conferring with plate umpire Bill Hohn during a break after the sixth inning of Thursday's game, Greg Maddux casually walked up to Hohn, reached down into his pouch, grabbed a new ball and strolled to the mound like a master pickpocket.
The art of deception is Maddux's craft and he often works it to perfection.
Working with a big lead on a sweltering afternoon at Wrigley Field, Maddux threw his second straight complete game as the Cubs cranked four home runs in a 13-2 rout of Cincinnati.
In a decided change of pace from recent events, sportsmanship was one of the topics Maddux broached after improving his season record to 9-7 with his 298th career win.
"The runs made it real easy," Maddux said. "We didn't even have to hold guys on base by the seventh inning, our lead was so big. You appreciate them not running in that situation. Hopefully we wouldn't do that to them if the shoe was on the other foot. When you get a lead like that, it changes the way the game is played sometimes."
Moises Alou hit two first-pitch home runs (a solo shot and a two-run blast) off Reds starter Cory Lidle, while Mark Grudzielanek added a three-run drive and Aramis Ramirez capped it with a grand slam in the sixth. The Cubs ended the homestand with a 4-4 record and flew to Philadelphia for the start of a seven-game trip.
The Cubs entered the day ranked first in the National League in home runs, but they were only seventh in runs scored. Alou said he believes criticism of an all-or-nothing offense is inaccurate. The Cubs also rank fifth in sacrifice bunts and fourth in triples.
"This team can do it all," Alou said. "They keep saying we only score when we hit home runs. I'm sick and tired of this being a pitching-oriented team. Everybody talks about the pitching and blah, blah, blah, and [saying] whenever we win it's always by the home run. We can do it all. [Thursday] we happened to hit some home runs.
"Sooner or later we're going to be on top of the division. There's no doubt in my mind."
Alou had his 25th career multi-homer game and leads the team with 24 home runs. The Cubs now have 128 homers and are on track for 218, which would break the 1998 franchise record of 212.
Baker also wouldn't apologize for the Cubs' dependence on the home run.
"It's a snapshot of what kind of team we have, sort of," he said. "That's not the only way to score runs, but we're among the league leaders. Look at the A's--their whole thing is walks and home runs. . . . There aren't a lot of contact hitters around, and not a lot of speed."
Maddux played great defense and watched catcher Paul Bako throw out two base stealers when the outcome still was in doubt. Grudzielanek's three-run blast in the fourth made it 6-1 and Maddux was on cruise control the rest of the day. He walked no one, struck out six and allowed only four hits, two of which were Javier Valentin homers.
Despite the big lead, Baker kept Maddux in the game to give his bullpen a needed rest. Still, Maddux needed only 92 pitches to finish it out.
"When you have a game like this, when you have as many runs as you get and we're playing as many days in a row as we are, it's important to pitch that extra inning if you can," Maddux said. "Philly is a tough place to pitch (because of the new ballpark), from what we hear, and we're probably going to use a lot of guys in that series."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times