By the time it was decided Friday, it was as if house painters were called in to finish the Sistine Chapel.
Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens, two artists who have combined for 635 career victories, could only sit and watch as their fate rested in the hands of the likes of Russ Springer, Dan Wheeler, Will Ohman, Roberto Novoa and LaTroy Hawkins.
Hawkins pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save of the season as the Cubs moved two games over .500 for the first time with a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros before a sellout crowd of 41,232 at Minute Maid Park.
Jeromy Burnitz snapped a 2-2 tie with a leadoff home run in the seventh inning off Clemens (1-1). The Astros have lost six in a row. Burnitz had three hits and two RBIs.
"I got some pitches to hit every at-bat," he said. "When you get that, you have to put the sweet spot on it."
Maddux (1-1) and Clemens each did their jobs, posting qualityif not overwhelmingstarts in just the fifth matchup of 300-game winners since 1900 and the first in the National League since 1892.
Maddux went six innings, allowing two runs and seven hits while improving to 306-175. Clemens went seven innings, allowing a season-high three runs and seven hits as he fell to 329-165.
"Overall, I thought I had thrown better the last couple games out," Maddux said. "I got away with some pitches and Jeromy got the big hit, and the bullpen was outstanding."
The much-maligned Cubs bullpen pitched three scoreless innings and got out of a mild jam in the eighth after two walks.
Clemens entered the game having allowed just one run in 28 innings. But the anemic Astros offense had scored a total of three runs in his first four starts.
"I really didn't read up on it," Clemens said of the pregame hype. "It's just old friends."
Clemens must not have known what to do with a 1-0 lead after the first inning. He immediately surrendered two runs in the top of the second.
Derrek Lee, who came into the game with a .467 lifetime average against Clemens, walked to lead off the inning and went to second on Aramis Ramirez's single.
Burnitz then singled home Lee. Todd Hollandsworth doubled in Ramirez, the first of two doubles for Hollandsworth.
The Cubs had a chance to blow the game open with runners on second and third and no out, but Michael Barrett and Greg Maddux grounded out with the infield pulled in and Jerry Hairston grounded out to end the threat.
"I thought we were going to get some more runs there," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
It was the first of many squandered chances for the Cubs, some their own doing, some by stellar Astros defensive plays.
Houston tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the third on a leadoff home run by Jeff Bagwell, the 449th homer of his career.
Burnitz was left stranded after a one-out double in the fourth, and Hairston was picked off first with one out in the fifth.
After Burnitz's homer in the seventh, the Cubs had runners on first and second with two out when Neifi Perez hit a sinking line drive to right. Jason Lane made a sliding catch to save at least a run.
In the eighth Lee was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Willy Taveras after a Ramirez single.
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