Greg Maddux gave the Cubs a shot in the arm Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium, curing them of the D-Lee Blues.
The 40-year-old Cubs' ace pitched seven shutout innings to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2000 in a 7-3 win over St. Louis, ending a two-game skid since the wrist injury to first baseman Derrek Lee.
Maddux allowed five hits while reducing his league-leading earned-run average to 0.99. With 322 career victories, he is two shy of tying Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton for 13th place on the all-time list.
"It's tough losing D-Lee because he's such a good person, let alone a good player," Maddux said. "When you play with 24 other guys, some guys are real easy to root for, and some you could care less [about]. I think D-Lee is one of those guys who's real easy to root for."
The Cubs finished the road trip with a 5-4 record and begin an eight-game homestand Monday night against Florida. Aramis Ramirez and Jacque Jones homered off Jason Marquis on Sunday, but without Lee around, the Cubs may go into more of a small-ball attack.
"From what I understand the last three years, that's what people wanted anyways," Todd Walker said Friday.
Whether the Cubs can succeed playing small ball is another question, though they now have speed with Juan Pierre and Ronny Cedeno at the top of manager Dusty Baker's revamped lineup.
"We still have power, but we have to concentrate on getting that guy over," said Pierre, who scored three runs. "I wouldn't necessarily play small ball because I don't think [Ramirez] is going to be bunting or [Walker] is going to bunt.
"Maybe Cedeno might bunt a little more, or Neifi [Perez]. Maybe we'll look to run a little bit more. Today we bunted early to get some runs for Maddux and let the rest take care of itself."
Cedeno had two hits and two sacrifices and looks comfortable in the No. 2 hole, where he figures to stay for a while.
"I always said he'd end up there," Baker said. "I just didn't think it would be this quickly."
If the Cubs prove they can score some runs without Lee, general manager Jim Hendry won't have to make a trade for a first baseman. Hendry said he has received calls from teams trying to "eliminate" players for financial or other reasons, but nothing of any substance.
The Cubs could be interested in veteran Arizona first baseman Tony Clark, but Clark's two-year contract could make the Cubs think twice before giving up prospects for him. He plays no other positions and wouldn't be needed when Lee returns. Hendry denied a published report the Cubs have made inquiries to Kansas City about Mike Sweeney.
Felix Pie continues to excel at Triple-A Iowa, but Hendry is not interested in bringing him up as a bench player.
"When Felix comes here you certainly want him to play a decent amount of time," Hendry said. "If we had an injury in the outfield instead of to D-Lee, then it would've certainly been Felix (called up). He's capable of coming up and performing. If it was later in the year maybe [he'd be up], but he's just getting his own at-bats now after coming off a season where he lost two-thirds of his at-bats."
Until the offense finds its groove, it's up to the starters to do their jobs. Maddux has done his masterfully thus far. He finds it a bit amusing that everyone is searching for reasons for his success. But according to Maddux, it's not his off-season conditioning program or improved location.
It's the breaks.
"I wish I could explain it," Maddux said. "Personally I'm just getting ready to pitch, like I always have. I'm just catching a lot of breaks. [Scott] Rolen's ball today, he crushes it and it hits the top of the fence. That ball should've went out. Sometimes you catch a lot of breaks in this game, and right now I feel like I am."
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