Greg Maddux has been typically modest as he approaches his latest milestone. But his peers can’t help but be impressed.
“People have been playing this game for 125 years now,” said Philadelphia pitcher Kevin Millwood, Maddux’s teammate for parts of six seasons. “To do something nobody else has ever done, it’s a very big deal.”
Maddux looks to set a new standard for pitching consistency as the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves conclude a four-game series with the Phillies at Turner Field.
On Saturday, Maddux gave up two unearned runs and eight hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 9-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates—his 14th win of the season.
One more victory will make the veteran right-hander the first pitcher in baseball history to win 15 games in 16 straight seasons. Cy Young is the only other pitcher to reach that plateau in 15 consecutive campaigns.
Maddux has already joined Warren Spahn and Eddie Plank as the only pitchers to win at least 14 games over 16 straight seasons. If he doesn’t win Thursday, he will probably have three more chances at win No. 15.
“I will think about what kind of pitcher I’ve been when I’ve retired,” said Maddux, who has 287 career wins. “It does me no good to think about what I’ve accomplished to this point.”
Maddux, who was the first pitcher to win four straight Cy Young awards, started his streak in 1988, when he went 18-8 for the Chicago Cubs, and has maintained it despite a strike that wiped out parts of the 1994 and ’95 seasons.
Despite his humility, others in baseball are impressed with the potential feat.
“That’s a record I would love to have my name attached to,” manager Bobby Cox said. “Is it hard to do? Well, take a look and there hasn’t been anybody else to ever do it.”
Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone was more succinct.
“He’s the greatest pitcher of this generation,” he said.
The streak appeared in jeopardy when Maddux began the season 0-3, losing 10-2 to Montreal, 17-1 to Florida and 16-2 to Philadelphia.
However, he has gone 8-2 since July 12, a span of 12 starts.
On Wednesday, the Braves beat the Phillies 4-2 for their fourth win in five games. Javy Lopez homered and doubled and Chipper Jones went 3-for-3 with a double for Atlanta, which set a new franchise record with 216 homers this season.
The Braves’ magic number for clinching the NL East is six.
The Phillies dropped one game behind Florida in the NL wild-card race. The Marlins beat the New York Mets 7-3 on Wednesday.
STANDINGS: Phillies - 3rd place, 12 GB, NL East. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Brett Myers (13-7, 4.17 ERA). On Saturday, Myers gave up three runs—two earned—and six hits over six innings in a 9-6 win over the Mets. It was his second straight win and eighth in nine decisions. In three career starts against the Braves, the right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Maddux (14-10, 3.92 ERA). The right-hander is 27-16 with a 3.24 ERA in 54 career appearances against Philadelphia.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Phillies - Mike Lieberthal, .322 avg.; Jim Thome, 39 HRs, 109 RBIs and 96 runs; Bobby Abreu, 20 SBs. Braves - Gary Sheffield, .334 avg. and 117 RBIs; Lopez, 39 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 120 runs and 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Phillies, 8-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Phillies - CF Marlon Byrd is riding an eight-game hitting streak. … 1B Thome struck out four times Wednesday, tying a career high and extending his slump to 1-for-19. … RHP Myers is 5-3 with a 5.18 ERA in 14 starts on the road this season. Braves - C Lopez’s homer was his 39th of the season, just two shy of the major league record for a catcher, set by Todd Hundley for the Mets in 1996. … INF Mark DeRosa started Wednesday for the third straight game, giving 3B Vinny Castilla the night off. DeRosa started the first two games of the series at second and short. … RHP John Smoltz, who has been on the disabled list for two weeks with tendinitis, is in Birmingham, Ala. rehabbing with orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Phillies - 35-39 on the road; Braves - 51-23 at home.
INJURIES: Phillies - INF David Bell (back), 15-day DL; RHP Terry Adams (oblique), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 60-day DL. Braves - OF Damon Hollins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Gryboski (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Smoltz (elbow), 15-day DL.