Tony Gwynn: Surprise, the Cubs are for real!
Greg Maddux opened his 20th season in the majors with two wins.
But that was when he was 39 years old.
The Cubs right-hander is off to his best start since opening 3-0 in 2002, when he won 16 games with the Atlanta Braves. Maddux has given up just two runs and seven hits through 12 1-3 innings this season while beating Cincinnati and St. Louis.
“He’s the definition of pitching,” Chicago’s Juan Pierre said. “He’s not overpowering, he doesn’t have tremendous stuff, but he gets it done every day, day in and day out.”
While there are five left-handed starters 40 years or older, he is the only active right-handed starting pitcher of that age. He’ll be looking for his 321st career win, which would bring him three victories closer to Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton for 13th on the all-time list.
Maddux is 12-7 with a 2.82 ERA in 30 starts against the Dodgers, including a win the only time he faced them last season.
The Cubs (7-4) are coming off a successful three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Chicago took two of three at PNC Park, including Sunday’s 7-3 victory behind two-run homers from Todd Walker and Aramis Ramirez.
“As a team, it’s nice to get off to a good start,” said Walker, batting .433 this season. “We’ve played well overall and these next six games (against the Dodgers and Cardinals) will be a good test for us. These next six games will show us what we’re made of.”
Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent is batting .280 (21-for-75) against Maddux with four home runs and 15 strikeouts. However, Maddux might not have to worry about facing Kent after he was knocked out of Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
Los Angeles is hoping Kent will be available Monday after he was hit in the helmet behind his left temple.
Kent didn’t appear to lose consciousness, but was wobbly standing up after being checked out by Dodgers medical personnel. After being helped to the dugout, he was replaced by a pinch runner and went to a local hospital for a CT scan.
“Hopefully he’ll be fine,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said, saying he was “scared to death” after it happened.
Kent was 0-for-2 on the day. He had scored five runs in the previous three games.
Los Angeles (6-7) has lost four of six and is hoping Brett Tomko can turn things around.
The right-hander is 1-0 this season with a 6.55 ERA. Tomko did not get a decision in Wednesday’s 9-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates after giving up five runs and nine hits, three of which were home runs, through five innings.
The Dodgers will honor Cubs manager Dusty Baker before the game. Baker played with Los Angeles from 1976-83, helping the team win a World Series in 1981.