A Baker's thousand

It took Cubs manager Dusty Baker fewer than 12 seasons to garner 1,000 career victories, a milestone he reached Monday night with a 5-2 win over Montreal at Olympic Stadium.

"It's special, because not everybody gets to 1,000," Baker said. "It lets you know how quickly time passes. I remember my first one, against the Cardinals, with John Burkett pitching (on April 6, 1993). I had no idea or clue I'd be sitting in this same position 999 more victories after that. It's a nice personal goal, but more important is the fact we won this game and picked up ground."

Greg Maddux (13-8) shut out the Expos for seven innings, taking over the team lead in victories, and Sammy Sosa drove in two runs as the Cubs ended their losing streak at three games. With San Francisco losing and San Diego idle, the Cubs moved a half-game ahead of the Padres in the wild-card chase, and one game ahead of the Giants.

Baker (1,000-848) is the sixth active manager to reach the 1,000 plateau, joining Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Lou Piniella and Art Howe. Like Maddux's 300th win earlier this season, Baker got there with little fanfare. Baker said bench coach Dick Pole knew he was at 999 last weekend, but didn't tell him so as not to put pressure on him.

"I didn't even realize he was approaching it," said outfielder Tom Goodwin, who played for Baker in San Francisco. "I hadn't seen anything in the papers about it, and he's not big on talking about his own personal thing. He will be mentioned as one of the best. I know he's one of the best [managers] I've had."

Maddux allowed five hits while striking out two and walking no one, winning for the sixth time in his last seven decisions. He's 9-4 since May 31, allowing two or fewer earned runs in 11 of 17 starts since then.

For the sixth straight season, Maddux is leading the National League in fewest pitches per batter with 3.32. That stat is only a little higher than his top-ranked averages in 1999 (3.24), 2000 (3.18), 2001 (3.18), 2002 (3.23) and 2003 (3.26).

That kind of consistency is why Maddux is the only pitcher in major-league history with at least 15 wins in 16 consecutive seasons, a mark he could add to this year with two more victories. He'll have six more starts, and is on schedule to face his former team, Atlanta, in the second-to-last game of the season Oct. 2 at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs scored four runs in the third off Rocky Biddle and cruised thereafter. After Mark Grudzielanek was picked off second by catcher Brian Schneider, the Cubs woke up at the right time.

Maddux singled to right, and Paul Bako scored when Juan Rivera's throw sailed into the Cubs' dugout for an error. Corey Patterson's groundout scored Maddux from third to make it 2-0, Jose Macias walked and Nomar Garciaparra reached on an error by third baseman Tony Batista. Sosa's two-run double made it 4-0, and Maddux added an RBI single in the fourth.

"That's the best part of the game," Maddux said. "It's a blast when you get a hit."

Terrmel Sledge's two-run homer off Jon Leicester spoiled the shutout in the ninth, and LaTroy Hawkins came on to record the final out and notch his 20th save.

Baker is the 50th manager to reach 1,000 wins, and the third to do it in a Cubs uniform, joining Cap Anson and Frankie Frisch.

"You've got to be doing something right to win 1,000 games," Maddux said. "No question, he's one of the top managers in the game."