Archive for Thursday, June 17, 2004

Maddux solid in Cubs victory

Ramirez notches three hits as Chicago wins its fifth straight

June 17, 2004

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— Greg Maddux and the Chicago Cubs have been playing so well on the road lately, they might want to stay in a hotel when they return home.

The Houston Astros, on the other hand, could use a one-way ticket out of town for a few days.

Maddux earned his 295th win Wednesday night, pitching the Cubs past the slumping Astros 4-1 for their fifth straight victory on this seven-game road trip.

"Obviously, the breaks are going for us," Chicago catcher Paul Bako said. "We're getting great pitching and timely hitting just like we thought we would in spring training."

Todd Hollandsworth's RBI triple sparked a two-run eighth for the Cubs. Maddux (6-5) befuddled the Astros, allowing only one run and eight hits in 61/3 innings.

The Astros have lost three in a row to Chicago and five of their last six, a tailspin that has left them in fifth place in the NL Central. A crowd of 36,225 booed the Astros throughout the night, an unusual occurrence from Houston's normally placid fans.

"Obviously, times are tough now," said Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who went 3-for-4. "Everyone starts feeling sorry for themselves. But if you're a team that believes in yourself, you go out and fix it. I still believe we're as good as anybody around."

Bako doubled in speedy Corey Patterson for the tying run in the seventh and Walker drove in Bako with a sacrifice fly, giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead.

Aramis Ramirez, who hit a tying single in Chicago's ninth-inning rally Tuesday night, led off the eighth with a single. Hollandsworth followed with a shot to deep center, which Craig Biggio let slip out of his glove as he crashed into the wall trying to avoid the man-made hill in center.

While Biggio scrambled to get up and make the play, Ramirez raced home and Hollandsworth made it to third.

Derrek Lee's sacrifice fly scored Hollandsworth.

"This was a great game by Maddux," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We were behind 1-0 a long time tonight, but (Maddux) just kept pitching and we just kept plugging and plugging until we got a couple of runs."

Maddux got off to a rocky start in the first, giving up three hits, including an RBI single to Lance Berkman that put the Astros on top 1-0.

But the four-time Cy Young Award winner found his groove, and he didn't allow an Astro past first base the rest of the night.

Mike Remlinger pitched 11/3 hitless innings, and LaTroy Hawkins got three outs for his seventh save of the season. Hawkins has been the regular closer since Joe Borowski went on the disabled list.

"When the pitchers on this team keep us in the game," Maddux said, "we're going to win a lot of close games. Our hitters are going to hit."

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