Dusty Baker said Tuesday the Cubs' early-season tendency to find excruciating ways to lose hasn't been discouraging to him.
"I woke up this morning," Baker said. "That's the only optimism I need. I woke up, and it was a new day. Nothing lasts forever. Optimism? Boy, that's my middle name."
Actually Baker's middle name is the letter 'B,' as in Johnnie B. Baker.
But after the Cubs shut out the New York Mets 7-0 Tuesday night for only their second victory in 10 games, it was no time to quibble.
On a balmy, 77-degree night with a light wind blowing out toward right field, the Cubs pounded four home runs, including two by Corey Patterson, and watched Greg Maddux shut down the Mets into the seventh inning to earn his 307th career victory.
"It's still early and we have a lot of time to get our act together and start playing the way we're capable of playing," Maddux said. "I don't think it was life or death before the game by any means, but we just needed to win and we got a win."
Maddux (2-1) threw 100 pitches in 62/3 shutout innings, allowing only three hits while striking out a season-high 10. The three hits were the fewest Maddux has allowed in his 40 starts since returning to the Cubs last year, and the 10 strikeouts were the most he has posted in his second go-round in Chicago.
Over his last five starts, the 39-year-old has posted a 2.76 earned-run average, looking more like the Maddux of old than "old" Maddux.
"He gave us all he had," Baker said. "Usually, he doesn't get close to that 100-pitch mark. He was probably 10-12 pitches over his limit. But with the score the way it was, we took him as far as he could go. And we have an understanding. he gives me a sign when he's through."
Maddux has a career record of 34-16 against the Mets, the most victories he has recorded against any major-league opponent. Former Braves teammate Tom Glavine said Maddux simply has a "confidence factor" against New York.
"I don't know," Maddux said. "Sometimes you go out there and [Carlos] Beltran hits it to the warning track instead of the first row [of the bleachers]. There's no way to explain it. It just happens."
The Cubs smacked four home runs off Mets starter Kris Benson (0-1), including Patterson's and one each from Jason Dubois and Jeromy Burnitz.
Baker confirmed afterward Dubois will play regularly in left field.
"He had a big night for us," Baker said. "He got us on the board, drove in a couple runs. Perhaps that's the spark we need."
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead off Benson in the second on back-to-back singles by Burnitz and Michael Barrett, followed by an RBI fielders' choice grounder by Dubois. Patterson homered to right with one out in the third, while Dubois added a shot into the basket in left in the fourth to make it 3-0.
Patterson hit his second of the night and eighth of the year with one out in the fifth, and Burnitz's two-run, opposite-field blast off Benson in the sixth made it 6-0.
Michael Wuertz pitched 11/3 scoreless innings after replacing Maddux, and Mike Remlinger finished with a perfect ninth. Mark Prior takes the mound Wednesday with a chance to give the Cubs their first series victory since taking two of three from Cincinnati on April 25-27.
"The last couple weeks, everybody has been struggling," Dubois said. "We haven't really scored many runs, and our pitching hasn't been that great.
"But we're going to turn it around, and everybody's going to start clicking here."