One-Eighty

One-Eighty

CHICAGO – One day after allowing the most home runs to a Cincinnati Reds team since gas prices were a little over a dollar per gallon and Brian McNichol was just getting his only major league audition on the north side, the Cubs turned in a complete 180 Wednesday in a 4-1 victory.

The Cubs, who gave up six home runs (the most against a Reds team since September of 1999) in Tuesday's 9-2 series-opening rout, kept the ball in the park throughout the day and allowed only four hits with the wind blowing out for the second straight game.

Regardless of the playing conditions, Greg Maddux doesn't mind.

After holding the Cardinals to a run on four hits with the wind blowing directly in last Friday, the 21-year major league veteran responded with six strong innings as the Cubs ran their record to 5-2.

"That's what makes this place so special," Maddux (2-0) recently said of the playing conditions at Wrigley. "It's different every day you come to the park."

Soon to turn 40, Maddux gave up three hits and the opponents only run Wednesday, striking out seven. He improved to 2-0 for the first since his 2002 season with the Atlanta Braves.

"After the way they were hitting the ball out of the park yesterday, he changed speeds effectively and took some of the zing out of their bats," manager Dusty Baker told reporters following the game.

The victory was the 320th of Maddux's career. He got some help from a Reds team that put more errors on the scoreboard than hits.

The Cubs put on two effective double steals in the game, the first to score the game's first run after leadoff hitter Juan Pierre bunted his way on base and Derrek Lee walked in the first inning. Pierre took third easily and then advanced home following an errant throw to third by Javier Valentin. The double steal worked to perfection again in the third.

Michael Barrett entered the day with a home run in each of his last three games and brought in three runs, lifting a sacrifice fly to deep right center in the first inning before driving in a run on the Reds' fifth error of the day in the third and then lacing a run-scoring single to center in the fifth.

Barrett was batting fourth in the lineup after minor injuries to Aramis Ramirez and Jacque Jones had both men sidelined for the day. Ramirez was listed as having a strained muscle in his derriere, while Jones strained his hamstring in the sixth inning of Tuesday's loss. Both are listed as day-to-day.

In the ninth inning, Ryan Dempster closed things out with his 21st consecutive save conversion, one shy of the franchise record set in 2003-04 by Joe Borowski. Dempster has thrown 26 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to last season.

The series finale is scheduled for Thursday at 1:20 p.m. (CDT). Carlos Zambrano will look for his first win of the season against Cincinnati's Eric Milton. Broadcast coverage will by provided by WGN.

(Information from the Cubs Media Relations office was used in this report.)

Contact Frank North: franknorthrup@gmail.com.

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Greg Maddux turned 40 on April 14 and isn't pitching like one of baseball's elder statesmen.

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