Maddux (13-13) picked up his 13th win, making quick work of Milwaukee hitters and out-dueling Rick Helling in a game that lasted 2 hours and 19 minutes. Maddux threw only 78 pitches in eight innings and held Milwaukee to just four hits. He struck out four without allowing a walk and perhaps could have finished with a complete game if not for a knot in his back that caused him to leave early.
The win for Maddux was significant on a number of levels.
For one, it insures he still has a chance to reach the 15-win plateau--a feat he has accomplished every season dating all the way back to 1988. Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who was only two years removed from his own playing career at the time Maddux first won 15 games in a season, has already announced plans to give the 39-year-old an extra start with just nine games remaining in the season. The Cubs are 75-78 and nine games back of the Houston Astros in the National League Wildcard race.
The win also gave Maddux the 318th of his career to tie Phil Niekro for 15th place on the all-time wins list. Next up are Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton with 324 wins apiece. Assuming Maddux was to win both of his remaining starts to go to 320 victories by year’s end, it’s possible he would pass Steve Carlton’s 329 career wins in 2006 to secure a spot on major league baseball's top 10 all-time wins list.
That brings up another point: Maddux’s future.
The talks of Maddux’s possible retirement at the end of this year, unfounded as they were all along, have subsided considerably. After the Cubs' victory on Thursday, Maddux added nothing but re-assurance to the probability that he’ll be back in Chicago again next season.
“I think I'm going to come back,” Maddux told reporters after the game, adding, “I want to come back next year. I was under the impression that I signed a three-year deal.”
Maddux’s contract guarantees a third year if he reaches 400 innings in the first two years of the contract. He accomplished that on Sept. 7 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Maddux logged 212 2/3 innings last year and has so far added another 210 2/3 in 2005. He would make $9 million with the Cubs in 2006.
Maddux now has a 4.14 ERA in 33 starts this season. From the standpoint of ERA, this could be his worst year statistically since the 1987 season, when he posted a plus-five average in 27 starts. Last year marked the first time since the ’87 season that Maddux finished with an ERA above four.
Thanks to Baker's re-shuffling, Maddux's next start is scheduled for Tues., Sept. 27 against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. If all goes according to plan, Maddux would also start the Oct. 2 season finale in Houston.
The Cubs lost two of three games to the Brewers in this week's series, both by two runs or less, and closed out the year 7-9 against “Milwaukee’s Best.” The Cubs fell 5-3 in the series opener on Tuesday, and 7-6 on Wednesday. They were just 3-7 this season at Miller Park, or “Wrigley North” as it has been more commonly referred to in recent years. This season in particular, the title was somewhat fitting considering the Cubs' lack of success at both Miller Park and at Wrigley, where they are 36-40.
For the year, the Cubs are 35-33 in games decided by two runs or less. They lead the all-time series with Milwaukee 62-61 since the two teams first met in head-to-head play in 1997. The Brewers joined the National League in 1998.
Next up for the Cubs are the Astros in a three-game series at Wrigley Field to kick off the final homestand of the season. The Cubs will also host Pittsburgh in a two-game series beginning Tuesday.
The Cubs and Astros will meet in their series opener Friday at 2:20 p.m. CDT with Glendon Rusch (7-8, 4.59 ERA) scheduled to face Wandy Rodriguez (10-8, 5.43 ERA). The game can be seen on WGN.
(Information from the Cubs’ Media Relations Office was used in this report.)