Needing a win to try to keep his chances of an impressive streak alive, Greg Maddux takes the mound for the Chicago Cubs in the opener of a two-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.
Maddux has won at least 15 games in 17 straight seasons. The 318-game winner is 13-13 this season and has only two starts remaining for the Cubs.
“Maybe they’ll just drop the number to 13 or 14 or whatever,” Maddux said. “I just worry about throwing a good pitch—making pitches—and let everything else away from that just go. I’ll do it my next two starts and I’ll do it for the next however many starts I have left in my career.”
The four-time Cy Young Award winner has also not had a losing record since going 6-14 in 1987—his first season as a full-time starter for the Cubs.
“I’d love to win my last two starts,” Maddux said. “I’d like to finish over .500 personally, but you’ve got to go about it the right way.”
The right-hander turned in a vintage performance at Milwaukee his last time out, allowing four hits in eight innings in a 3-0 win last Thursday. Maddux threw 55 of 78 pitches for strikes.
“That was pitch preservation,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “He made them all count. That’s the thing—the guy can pitch.”
The 39-year-old Maddux is 1-1 with a 2.67 ERA in four outings against Pittsburgh this season.
Pittsburgh will counter with 22-year-old rookie Zach Duke, who is 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts since returning from the disabled list. He had been 6-0 with a 1.81 ERA over his first 10 major-league outings before going on the disabled list after suffering a sprained left ankle on Aug. 23.
Duke surrendered two runs and five hits over six innings in a 2-1 loss on Thursday to Houston. Pittsburgh has managed only three runs in his two losses.
“I got some luck at the beginning when I came up,” Duke said. “I’ll go along and keep throwing my game.”
The left-hander is facing the Cubs for the second time. He outpitched Maddux in a 3-0 win at Wrigley Field on July 16, giving up six hits over eight innings.
Chicago has played well within the division this season, going 41-32. The Cubs are 11-3 against the Pirates, including a 4-2 mark at home.
Pittsburgh has lost six out of seven as it enters its final road series of the season. The Pirates fell to 8-13 since Pete Mackanin took over as interim manager on Sept. 6 after a 9-4 loss at Los Angeles on Monday.