Greg Maddux needed just 78 pitches to beat his former team--the fewest in a complete game in nearly seven years--as the Atlanta Braves beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 in the opener of a doubleheader Tuesday.
Maddux looked like the best pitcher of the ‘90s in winning the first game. In the second game, however, the Braves didn’t resemble the NL’s best team this decade.
Chicago won, 5-4, scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth on consecutive errors by shortstop Jeff Blauser and third baseman Chipper Jones.
“The way we lost the second game put a damper on the day,” Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox said.
Maddux (14-3) pitched a five-hitter, needing just 2 hours 7 minutes to become the NL’s first 14-game winner.
“He’s a brilliant, brilliant pitcher. If my life depended on one game, I’d want him to throw it,” Chicago’s Mark Grace said of his good friend and former teammate.
“I think the wind is blowing in every time I pitch here,” Maddux said. “That helps. It’s one of those things.”
Maddux threw 63 strikes. His pitch total, according to Stats Inc., was the lowest in a major-league complete game since Aug. 29, 1990, when Bob Tewksbury threw 76 for St. Louis against Cincinnati.
“I hadn’t heard that one,” said Maddux, who threw only 86 pitches in beating the New York Yankees earlier this season. “I thought they [the Cubs] were aggressive and rightfully so. If you are going to get me, get me early in the count. Why not? That’s not bad to do. When you are aggressive early in the count and the wind is blowing in like it is and the grass is the way it is here, you have a chance to do something like that.”
Maddux won his seventh consecutive decision and is 6-0 against the Cubs, the team he left after the 1992 season, when he won the first of four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards. His earned-run average against his former team is 1.43
“I’ve thrown some pretty good games against them,” said Maddux, who pitched his fifth complete game of the season and third in five starts. “We’ve scored a lot of runs against them. Four runs against them today was a lot.”
The wind was blowing in at 12 mph but that’s not why the Cubs couldn’t hit Maddux. He was just doing what he always does, which is throwing strikes.
“I want to cry my head off every time I see him on the rubber for the Atlanta Braves,” Grace said. “Greg should be with us.”
Maddux struck out six and walked none to outpitch rookie Jeremi Gonzalez (7-3), who had won five in a row.
“You have to get to him early in the count. If you go deep in the count, you are not going to see a lot of base hits,” Cubs manager Jim Riggleman.
“If he throws a nine-inning game, it will probably be a low-pitch count. We tried to go after him on the first pitch. That’s been our approach since the middle of last year. . . . Years from now I will look back and appreciate the games we were in with him. Now we are just trying to beat him.”
Atlanta went ahead 2-1 in the fifth on Jeff Blauser’s leadoff double, an infield out and sacrifice fly by Chipper Jones. Michael Tucker hit a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh.
Gonzalez allowed four runs and seven hits in seven innings.
Atlanta pushed across a first-inning run on singles by Tucker and Jones, a fly ball by Fred McGriff that advanced Tucker and Ryan Klesko’s two-out single.
The Cubs got even in the fourth when Shawon Dunston led off with a single, stole second, moved to third on Mark Grace’s grounder and scored on an infield out by Sammy Sosa.
In the eighth inning of the second game, Dunston singled with two outs and Blauser and Jones misplayed grounders by Kevin Orie and Ryne Sandberg, sending Mike Cather (0-1) to the loss.
Orie’s ball was right to Blauser.
“It should have been caught,” Blauser said.
Sandberg’s hot shot jumped over Jones’ glove.
“It was a routine play. I didn’t make it,” Jones said. “Two outs, nobody on and we gave it to them.”
Kent Bottenfield (2-2) won despite giving up the second of two homers by Andruw Jones, allowing Atlanta to tie the score, 4-4, in the eighth. Mel Rojas pitched the ninth for his 12th save.
Danny Bautista also homered for the Braves. Denny Neagle, aiming to join Maddux as a 14-game winner, gave up four runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings.