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Greg Maddux has said all along that getting the Cubs into the postseason was more important than going for his 300th win.
Sunday he proved those weren't empty words.
On an electric day at Wrigley Field, Maddux's attempt to reach a coveted milestone shared the spotlight with the debut of new shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. The Cubs rallied for a 6-3 victory over Philadelphia, but 38-year-old Maddux bowed out after six innings and wound up with no decision.
With the Cubs trailing 3-2, Maddux didn't come out of the dugout for the seventh, disappointing 39,032 who had come to see history. Kent Mercker (2-0) earned the win in relief, retiring the only batter he faced before the Cubs scored four runs in their half of the seventh. Maddux later admitted he was gassed after throwing 87 pitches on a hot afternoon and didn't want to risk putting the Cubs in a bigger hole.
"I think I could've started the seventh," he said. "I don't know if I could've made it out of it or not. I was pretty much done after the fifth or sixth. I'm just glad we won."
Staying in the game "is not fair to the rest of the guys," Maddux said. "I would've loved to have gone out there and tried not to walk somebody, hope they hit it at somebody. But that's not right. That's not fair to the rest of the guys, to the city, whatever. It's not the way you're supposed to play the game."
Maddux's next attempt at No. 300 will come Saturday in San Francisco, where he'll go against Giants ace Jason Schmidt.
"All you've got to do is just keep breathing," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He's going to get 300."
Maddux may have been the featured attraction, but Garciaparra's first game as a Cub was the perfect complement Sunday. The five-time American League All-Star received a standing ovation when he took the field to warm up and another before his first at-bat. Fans were chanting "No-mar" before Garciaparra came up with his first hit and RBI in the decisive seventh.
"It was great," Garciaparra said. "My first game. Not only to wear this uniform but to be able to play in front of these fans, and the ovation I got
things like that you'll never forget. I know I won't. I can't thank them enough. I hope they know how much I appreciate it."
Sammy Sosa (No. 23) and Aramis Ramirez (No. 22) hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning for the Cubs, who took two of three from the Phillies before heading to Colorado for the start of a six-game trip Tuesday night.
Trailing 3-2 in the seventh, the Cubs batted around against Randy Wolf (4-7) and two relievers. After Sosa's leadoff double and a walk to Ramirez, Mark Grudzielanek dropped a one-out blooper down the right-field line, bringing Sosa home to tie the game and sending Ramirez to third.
Pinch-hitter Jose Macias, facing reliever Rheal Cormier, smoked a hard shot off the glove of shortstop Jimmy Rollins, bringing home the go-ahead run. Michael Barrett's pinch sacrifice fly made it 5-3, and after Corey Patterson was hit by a Todd Jones pitch, Garciaparra delivered his first Cubs hit, an RBI single to left to end the scoring.
Cubs reliever Kyle Farnsworth loaded the bases in the eighth inning, but Mike Remlinger came on to strike out Chase Utley, and Grudzielanek barely managed to corral a wind-blown popup by Jason Michaels to get out of the inning.
"That was huge for us, what [Remlinger] did, getting out of the bases-loaded jam," Baker said.
Cubs closer LaTroy Hawkins collected his 16th save, squirming out of another jam in the ninth.
Maddux got off to an inauspicious start, serving up solo home runs to Rollins and Bobby Abreu in the first inning and setting a career high in homers allowed with 25.
"The first inning was a little rough," Maddux said. "But we got through and came back in the second."
While Sosa made two outstanding catches, his error while trying to field Rollins' ground single to right in the fifth allowed Marlon Byrd to score from second with the go-ahead run.
In the end Maddux and Garciaparra were satisfied to come out with a win on an emotional day. Garciaparra described it as a "surreal feeling" to be playing for someone other than Boston, but he appeared ready to fall in love with his new town and his new team.
"The fans in Boston were tremendous and embraced me," Garciaparra said. "The ovation I got here [Sunday]that's something you don't forget. That stays with you. It stays in your heart and you appreciate it every step of the way."