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by alex ciepley
I was one start too early with my 300 words for Maddux, it appears. Though it wasn't a particularly great start this time around, it got the job done. Maddux has now won 4 straight decisions, with a 2.31 ERA over his last five starts.
A couple days ago Jay Mariotti had an interesting column regarding Maddux. He suggests that while the Cubs' future success this season will be measured from the moment of the trade for Garciaparra, the most important charge in the season has been the recent resurgence of Maddux on the mound.
[L]et's not have amnesia about who saved the season. Garciaparra was merely a glimmer in Hendry's eye last month when the ballclub swirled in turmoil. I seem to recall a bucking-bull rant by LaTroy Hawkins, a petulant Carlos Zambrano exacting revenge on Jim Edmonds' bones, a pouting Sammy Sosa telling the home fans not to boo and a nervy Moises Alou ripping into broadcasters Chip Caray and Steve Stone. The Cubs were Tropical Storm Dusty, ready to blow Wrigleyville into a million pieces and fade away.
But then came this tranquil presence, a 38-year-old adult who does crossword puzzles, lets a slight roll of his belly spill over his elastic waistband and responds to questions by curling his lower lip over his upper lip, shrugging slowly and starting every answer with a soft "Um..." As the season wobbled amid whining, losing and intense expectations, it was Greg Maddux who slowed the free fall. When poise and leadership were in urgent demand, he replied by winning three straight decisions, two via complete games, and reminding the resident loudmouths and loons about the meaning of professionalism.
I don't know all about the "poise and leadership" bit, but I do know that those back-to-back complete games were a huge lift, and that Maddux hasn't been pitching like a fifth starter for a while now. He needs just four more wins over the next two months to record his record seventeenth straight season with at least fifteen wins, and I have to think he has a good chance of getting it.
As far as yesterday's game goes, I missed it. I was late getting home, and then the games were blacked out on both my Extra Innings package and MLB.tv! And while everyone is going on and on about how appropriate it is that Maddux just stayed in the lockerroom after the victory, not coming out onto the field, I would have been pretty bummed had I been in attendance. Take a curtain call, Greg!
The Cubs send Wood out for the series win tonight, and I know I'll be able to catch some of the game, courtesy of the blather of Joe Morgan and great play-by-play of Jon Miller. Depending on the result of today's Padres-Pirates game, the Cubs -- with a win tonight -- could begin to open up their wild card lead.