Wrigley rises for Maddux in Cubs' win

Wrigley rises for Maddux in Cubs' win

CHICAGO -- If Saturday was Greg Maddux's last game for the Cubs, he left with a tip of his cap and a well-deserved "W."

Angel Pagan stole home for the tie-breaking run in a bizarre second inning to help Maddux win his 327th career game and lift the Cubs to a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, who remained winless in Chicago.

Maddux (8-11), rumored to be a hot commodity for a playoff-bound team, won his second consecutive start after losing six straight decisions. Scott Rolen doubled to lead off the seventh, prompting Cubs manager Dusty Baker to pull Maddux. The sellout crowd of 41,302 gave the pitcher a standing ovation as he left, and he waved his cap. The right-hander has a no-trade clause, so it's his call. Monday is the trading deadline.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Maddux said. "I don't think any player wants to leave Chicago, myself included. It's a great place to play, great ballpark, great fans, great city.

"I love pitching here," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I wanted to say 'Thank you' and let them know I appreciate it."

Maybe the crowd knows something. They also gave Maddux a standing ovation after he successfully executed a sacrifice bunt in the sixth inning.

"He's incredible," said Cubs closer Ryan Dempster, who survived a shaky ninth for his 20th save. "I have a son now, and if he ever wants to be a baseball player, I hope he grows up and becomes the same kind of player Greg Maddux has been. He's the ultimate team guy, ultimate professional. You admire him.

"Sometimes when I act a certain way or do things that I don't like, I kick myself and wish I could take after a great guy like him," Dempster said. "I try to learn as much as possible from him.

"I definitely want him to stay," Dempster said. "He puts golf on [the television] Saturday and Sunday, and no one else does."

Will Maddux stay or will he go?

"I want to do what's best for the Cubs, period," Maddux said. "If I have to go, I totally understand. Let's do what's best for this team, and that's it."

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has said he'll consult with Maddux before finalizing a deal. Maddux said Hendry hasn't talked to him. It's a weird situation.

"It's like, hey, I want to play here but if Jim gets the right players and wants to trade me, who am I to say no?" Maddux said. "I want to do what's best for the team. I don't know what's going on, I don't know what's being said, I don't know anything. I want to help the Cubs any way I can, and I'd like to help them by throwing first, and going second."

"It's like, hey, I want to play here but if Jim [Hendry] gets the right players and wants to trade me, who am I to say no? I want to do what's best for the team. ... I want to help the Cubs any way I can, and I'd like to help them by throwing first, and going second."
-- Greg Maddux

If Maddux did leave, would he consider coming back?

"Absolutely," he said. "I did it once before. Who knows what's going to happen?"

Maddux began his career with the Cubs in 1987, but left after he won his first Cy Young in 1992, and played the next 11 seasons in Atlanta before returning to Wrigley Field in 2004.

"I'd love for him to stay," Cubs reliever Scott Eyre said. "What he brings to the table is off the charts."

The 40-year-old veteran is now tied for 11th on the all-time wins list with John Clarkson, depending on what all-time list you use. The Cubs rely on STATS Pass, which lists Clarkson with 327 career wins. MLB.com says Clarkson, a right-hander who pitched from 1882-1894, including 1884-87 with the Cubs, has 328.

What's important is that Maddux and the Cubs improved to 9-3 against the Cardinals this season, and 6-0 at Wrigley Field. The right-hander struck out six and was tagged for one run on five hits over six-plus innings.

Maddux now has 1,305 strikeouts with the Cubs, and is in sole possession of fourth place on the team's all-time K list, 62 behind Rick Reuschel (1,367). Maddux has 3,133 strikeouts in his career.

"This guy is one of the classiest pros you'll ever meet," Baker said. "He doesn't get too high when things are going good, and not too low when things are going poorly. If anything, he's taught a lot of the young guys how to be a professional, how to conduct yourself, and how to deal with good times and adverse times."

As for his performance on Saturday in 95-degree heat, it was typical Maddux. He improved to 3-0 against the Cardinals this year.

"Vintage. Vintage Greg Maddux," Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said. "Great movement, getting ahead on the hitters early. He just keeps grinding and grinding and keeps pitching, and he did a phenomenal job today."

The Cubs gave Maddux all the runs he needed in a bizarre second. John Mabry walked and advanced on Pagan's single, and Ronny Cedeno followed with a base hit. Mabry rounded third but stopped per coach Chris Speier's instruction, except Pagan was headed there, too, at full speed with his head down. Right fielder Juan Encarnacion threw to third, and Scott Rolen held onto the ball rather than try to get Mabry at home. Pagan was safe, and Mabry scored to tie the game.

Cedeno broke for second on an attempted steal, was delayed in a brief rundown, and Pagan took advantage and stole home. Cedeno did advance, but was thrown out at home by Encarnacion when he tried to score on Juan Pierre's single.

That inning wasn't classic, but another chapter in what has been a strange season for the Cubs. Maddux will be back Sunday, preparing for his next start, just as he always does.

"I've enjoyed my time with him," Barrett said. "He's been nothing but a professional player. To work with him is beyond imagination. I've loved every second of it. I hate to see him go if he does go. Whatever happens, happens.

"I hated him when he was a Brave, absolutely hated him," Barrett said. "And now that I've had a chance to play with him, he's the absolute best teammate I've ever played with. He's a tremendous teammate."

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