Maddux and Clemens have a combined 11 Cy Young Awards—seven for Clemens and four for Maddux. Clemens won the first of his seven awards with Boston in 1986, one season before the most recent matchup between 300-game winners that featured California’s Don Sutton against Minnesota’s Steve Carlton on Aug. 4, 1987.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Maddux said. “I really admire the guy. How can you not? I learned a lot about pitching from watching him through the years.”
“It’s an historical event with two active 300-game winners,” Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said. “They’re probably the last two guys we’ll see in the history of baseball going at it with those kind of numbers. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be on the field with them.”
This is the first time 300-game winners in the National League will go head-to-head since July 1892 when Philadelphia’s Tim Keefe and St. Louis’ Jim “Pud” Galvin faced off twice.
This will be the second meeting between Clemens and Maddux. The two opposed each other on June 3, 2000 in an interleague game when Maddux pitched for Atlanta and Clemens for the Yankees, with neither receiving a decision.
“We both gave it up in that one,” Maddux said. “I gave up more than he did, I know that.”
Clemens has been by far the better pitcher of the two this season, and very possibly, the best in the majors.
Although he only has one win, Clemens has allowed just one run and 16 hits in 28 innings over four starts while walking six and striking out 32. He is unscored upon in 23 consecutive innings, but the Astros have not scored a run for him in 22 innings, failing to even get a runner to third base in his most recent outing at St. Louis on Saturday.
Houston may need another stellar performance from Clemens because its offense has been almost nonexistent lately, getting shut out three times during a five-game losing streak.
The Astros completed an 0-5 trip with a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, dropping to a major league-worst 1-10 on the road. They have lost their last two games by a 2-0 score.
“We’re just not getting the hits right now and we’ve just got to keep grinding and working and figuring out what we can do better and how we can get some more guys on base and come up with the big hit,” Astros outfielder Jason Lane said.
One batter Clemens may want to pitch very carefully is Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, the NL leader in batting average (.430), homers (seven) and RBIs (27). He is batting .538 (21-for-39) during a current 10-game hit streak, and has gone 7-for-15 (.467) lifetime against Clemens.
Lee homered twice and matched a career high with six RBIs, and Corey Patterson homered in the bottom of the ninth as the Cubs overcame a five-run deficit in an 8-7 victory over Cincinnati on Wednesday.
“It’s not easy, man,” Lee said. “It’s just one of those times where you’re seeing the ball well and get in a zone. It seems like pitchers make more mistakes and you take advantage of them.”
Chicago has scored 32 runs in winning three of its last four games.