A lingering storm delayed Greg Maddux's quest for his 3,000th strikeout for nearly three hours Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, but the inevitability of the milestone made thousands of fans wait patiently for a chance to witness a little history.
After the rain subsided, Maddux took the mound against San Francisco at 9:48 p.m. in the latest start time since night games were introduced to Wrigley in 1988. But the fans' patience was rewarded.
Maddux got Omar Vizquel to look at a called third strike to end the third inning as he became the 13th member of the 3,000 strikeout club and the ninth pitcher in history with both 3,000 strikeouts and 300 victories. He received a loud standing ovation and hugs from his teammates as he walked off the mound, and catcher Michael Barrett calmly handed him the ball.
Maddux then ventured out of the Cubs dugout for a curtain call before getting back to business. In the long run, the game, a 3-2 loss in 11 innings, was more important to Maddux than any milestone along the way.
"It would have been nice to win. And if it happened, great, and if it didn't and we won, I would much rather have gotten no strikeouts and won. Trust me," Maddux said. "But it's pretty cool to get there. Not that many guys have done it."
Barrett got Maddux off the hook for a loss when he homered on LaTroy Hawkins first pitch in the eighth inning to tie the game 2-2.
But the Giants ended up winning the game 3-2 in 11 innings when Jason Ellison singled to center off Michael Wuertz to score Deivi Cruz. Glendon Rusch, who fell to 5-4, retired the first batter in the 11th before allowing singles to Deivi Cruz and Mike Matheny. Wuertz entered the game and got Yorvit Torrealba on strikes before facing Ellison.
"The only bad pitch the guy (Wuertz) made lost him the game," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "He never gave Torrealba or Ellison anything to hit until that pitch."
In a pitcher's duel between Maddux and Giants left-hander Noah Lowry, San Francisco took a 1-0 lead in the fifth on Lowry's successful one-out squeeze, the second time in five games an opposing team has pulled it off against the Cubs. Matt Murton's infield hit in the sixth tied the game 1-1 when Edgardo Alfonzo's throw escaped first baseman Lance Niekro's glove, allowing Barrett to score from second.
J.T. Snow's pinch-hit, RBI single off Maddux in the seventh put San Francisco back on top.
Maddux entered the evening only two strikeouts shy of the 3,000 mark, leaving everyone pumped about his entrance into the exclusive club.
Well, almost everyone.
Asked if games like Tuesday's made him more excited coming out to the park, manager Dusty Baker nearly was forced to stifle a yawn.
"Not really, because he doesn't get excited about it," Baker said. "I've seen some milestones in my dayHank Aaron, Barry Bonds. I can't even name all the milestones I've seen really. I'm excited for him, excited for the people, excited for the organization and we need to win."
Maddux's climb to 3,000 has been a slow and steady journey, but the results are just the same. He isn't regarded as a strikeout pitcher because he doesn't have an overpowering fastball like a Roger Clemens or a Nolan Ryan, and has had only one season with more than 200 strikeouts (204 in 1998), while Kerry Wood already has four seasons of 200 or more on his resume.
"All he has to do is pitch and he'll get strikeouts," Baker said of Maddux. "Most people are probably surprised, including myself, because you don't really think of him as a strikeout pitcher. But he has struck out a lot of people."
"I don't try to strike guys out. I never have," Maddux said Tuesday. "I've always tried to just make a pitch, but (tonight) I found myself maybe trying to strike somebody out and it kind of took me out of my game a little bit.
"You hear it. Believe me. You hear it," he said of the crowd reaction.
Barrett took the ball and put it in Maddux's glove as he crossed the third base line on the way to the dugout and several of his teammates stopped to hug him and shake his hand.
"I appreciated it a lot for those guys to do that for me," Maddux said.
In entering the 3,000-strikeout club, Maddux joined Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, who accomplished the feat on May 25, 1982, during his second stint with the Cubs. The franchise is the first with two members in the club and both, coincidentally, wore No. 31. The ultra-exclusive 3,000-strikeout/300-victory club that Maddux joined also includes Ryan, Clemens, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Walter Johnson and Phil Niekro.
Despite contrasting styles, Maddux shares one main trait with those eight other pitchersa dogged determination to succeed.
"I would say he's very humble externally and very confident internally," Baker said. "He's very prepared. He knows himself. He knows the opposition, knows the umpires, everything that goes into the equation of getting people out in an inning. This guy studies."
"I remember when (coach) Dick Pole told me one day, 'Why don't you stop trying to strike guys out? Just try to get them out and you'll probably strike out just as many guys, if not more,"' Maddux said.
"He was right. I've always tried with two strikes just to make a pitch and get the guy out. You get a lot of strikeouts just on accident."
Giants rookie Lance Niekro had two doubles and a single off Maddux, who's never used an overpowering fastball to get his strikeouts, just great control and movement on a variety of pitches.
"It was fun to face Greg after growing up and watching the success he's had," Niekro said. "He's around the strike zone, he looks to get you to hit the ball and hit it on the ground. His ball is always moving and he's got good command of all his pitches."
Associated Press contributed to this report.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times