Maddux tops Brewers for win No. 5

Maddux tops Brewers for win No. 5

CHICAGO -- Greg Maddux is getting better with age.

For the first time in his long career, Maddux is 5-0 in his first five starts. He gave up two runs -- the most he's allowed in a start all season -- over six innings on Friday as the Chicago Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 6-2. Ronny Cedeno hit a two-run homer and Jacque Jones added a solo shot to back Maddux, who notched career win No. 323 and improved to 13-3 lifetime against the Brewers.

"You don't have to win to have fun playing this game, but it definitely helps," Maddux said. "It's 100 times easier to have fun when you're winning."

The right-hander, the first in the Majors to reach five wins, entered the game with a 0.99 ERA, and it jumped to 1.35, still tops in the National League. It's the third time in his career that Maddux has gone 5-0 in one month; he also did so in May 1998 and July 1997, both with Atlanta.

"I think he's the same Greg," said Cubs catcher Henry Blanco, who was Maddux's personal catcher in Atlanta in 2002. "He just keeps doing what he does best -- stays ahead in the count against hitters and keeps working as he always does."

But Maddux is 40 now. Shouldn't he be slowing down, less effective?

"All I can tell you is he's still smart," Blanco said. "He's still Maddux, he's still the same as when he was 20. He doesn't throw hard, he doesn't overpower hitters. He does what he's capable of doing, which is get ahead and go from there."

Milwaukee manager Ned Yost knew that Maddux was back to his old tricks when he saw him in March.

"The first time we saw him in Spring Training, we realized real quick that he was the same old Maddux," Yost said. "I don't see anything different about him now than when he was in his heyday, when he was at his best. He's right back there now."

Maddux is coming off his first losing season (13-15) since 1987. He had won at least 15 games in 17 seasons prior to 2005.

"There's good years and bad years -- there's great years and good years," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "This might be one of the great years.

"He only had 15 [good years] in a row -- maybe it was time," Baker said. "I don't know anybody who stayed on top and excellent every year in their career, but he's done a pretty good job of it."

Maddux, who ranks 15th on the all-time wins list, one behind Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan, won't divulge what he did this offseason. He appears to be in better shape, but he keeps saying that he only needs to "pitch better."

"He's got a good tempo, good rhythm going, great control, great movement," Baker said. "When things are going good, you don't worry about why they're going good -- you just keep on going good. It's like surfing -- you ride it to the beach instead of worrying about when you're going to fall off."

Maddux does have his limits. As soon as he reaches a certain pitch count, he seems to run out of gas. On Friday, it was 89 pitches.

"Sometimes when you're 40 years old, it taps you on the shoulder and it's time to get out," Baker said.

Maddux downplays his success this month.

"The year hasn't got going yet," Maddux said. "It's nice to start good. The team has played very well on the day I pitch. Starting pitchers sometimes get too much credit when the team wins and too much blame when the team loses. Guys put up runs constantly when I'm out there. Runs always make you look good as a pitcher. Sometimes it's the guys scoring, not necessarily the guy throwing the ball."

The Brewers threatened in the first, when they loaded the bases with one out. Maddux escaped when he got Prince Fielder looking at strike three and Corey Koskie flied out to left.

"His ball looks like it's right there, and then it's not there anymore," Fielder said.

In the Chicago second, Aramis Ramirez, Matt Murton and Jacque Jones each hit doubles, with runs scoring on the latter two hits, putting the Cubs ahead, 2-0. Todd Walker added an RBI single in the Cubs third.

The Brewers loaded the bases again in the fifth, and Geoff Jenkins, a career .395 hitter against Maddux, hit a two-run single to close the gap to 3-2. But Maddux got Carlos Lee to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Cedeno had started the double play with a great grab, and in the fifth, he hit his first homer, driving in Juan Pierre, to open a 5-2 lead.

"I felt like I was on the verge of getting knocked out of the game," Maddux said. "[Cedeno] makes a good play to start the double play and then comes up and hits a home run. Ronny did great."

"When Greg is pitching, I have to be ready for a lot of ground balls, because he throws a lot of sinkers and changeups," Cedeno said. "When Maddux pitches, I think he feels more comfortable, because we have good defense right now."

The Cubs do have an improved defense, which has helped. The runs have helped. Maddux is focusing on pitching. That's what he does best.

"It's about pitching and doing what you do to make pitches," he said. "The outcome of the game is something that as a starting pitcher is very hard to control. You just worry about making pitches and leave it as that and move on."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.