The Chicago Cubs’ offense abandoned them over the weekend. They’re trying to prevent that from happening again during the final week of the regular season.
The Cubs will try to remain atop the NL wild-card race when they meet the Cincinnati Reds in the second game of their four-game series at Wrigley Field.
With six games left, Chicago is a game ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the wild-card standings. Houston, which beat St. Louis 10-3 Monday, is 1 1/2 games back.
“We’d feel a lot better if San Francisco and Houston were about five games back,” Cubs second baseman Todd Walker said. “The good thing is we don’t have to worry about what they do. If we win these next six games, we’re in.”
Walker went 3-for-4 with a walk, a two-run homer and four RBIs Monday to lead the Cubs to a 12-5 rout in the series opener. Corey Patterson, Derrek Lee and Jose Macias also homered, and Nomar Garciaparra went 3-for-3 with a walk and a pair of RBIs.
That performance was a vast improvement from their showing this past weekend, when they dropped two of three to the lowly New York Mets and scored just seven runs over 30 innings in the series.
Greg Maddux will now look for the Cubs to provide him with similar offensive support.
Maddux allowed three runs and seven hits over six innings Thursday in a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the process, the 38-year-old right-hander extended his major league record to 17 consecutive seasons with at least 15 victories.
Maddux, however, seemed more pleased to eclipse 200 innings for the 16th time in 17 seasons. He has pitched 201 2-3 innings this year.
“You always have your goals,” he said. “One of them is always to win 20, but you always have a goal to pitch 200 innings. If you can go out there and get your 200 innings, you have to be doing something right.”
Unless Maddux pitches a combined 400 innings or more in 2004 and 2005, Chicago has the right to void his $9 million salary in 2006.
“I think 200 innings for me personally means more than the wins, because you can’t control the wins and losses as much as you can control showing up every fifth day and getting your 200 innings,” Maddux said.
Adam Dunn hit his 43rd homer of the season Monday for the Reds, who have lost two straight following a four-game winning streak.
Cincinnati has a two-game lead over Pittsburgh for fourth place in the NL Central.