To avoid a sweep by the St. Louis Cardinals (11-6), the Cubs will instead look for another strong pitching performance from Greg Maddux when he takes the mound Sunday at new Busch Stadium in the finale of the three-game series.
Chicago (9-7) has managed only four runs in the two games since Lee fractured his wrist in a freak accident on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was placed on the 15-day disabled Thursday and is expected to miss at least two months.
“The loss of D-Lee is more mental than anything,” said Chicago’s Todd Walker, who may see some playing time at first. “I don’t think there is an overreaction that we lost two without Derrek.”
The Cubs, who need a victory to finish with a winning road record on this nine-game road trip, hope Maddux (3-0, 1.33 ERA) can keep the Cardinals’ bats— especially Albert Pujols—in check.
Now in his 21st season, Maddux has turned back the clock to the mid-1990s, when he was in the process of winning four straight Cy Young Awards.
The 40-year-old right-hander already has beat the Cardinals once this season, allowing one run and four hits in a 5-1 victory on April 7.
In 20 1-3 innings this season, Maddux has allowed only three earned runs and 10 hits. From 1992-95 during his Cy Young Award-winning seasons, Maddux averaged 19 wins and a 1.93 ERA.
“I heard Julio Franco say a million times, ‘Age is just a number,”’ said Maddux, referring to the New York Mets’ 47-year-old first baseman. “I’m finally starting to understand what he meant by that. I used to laugh at him 10 years ago, but I know what he means now.”
It will take another fine performance by Maddux to stop Pujols, who has had an incredible week.
The reigning NL MVP has gone 9-for-19 with six homers and 14 RBIs in six games, including a three home run game against Cincinnati on April 16.
He had a two-run single in St. Louis’ 4-1 win on Saturday and picked up his 1,000th career hit, a two-run homer, in Friday’s 9-3 victory.
Pujols was 0-for-4 against Maddux on April 7, but is 10-for-27 with three homers and five RBIs in his career against him.
“He’s proven, I think, that if he stays healthy, he’s not going to change his approach,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Pujols. “He’s going to keep trying to win games and keep working hard and keep competing hard.
“Just appreciate what he’s doing and don’t get too far ahead and see what happens tomorrow.”
Jason Marquis (3-0, 2.79), St. Louis’ starter on Sunday, has also had an excellent start to the season, giving up only six runs in 19 1-3 innings.
The right-hander will be happy to avoid facing Lee, the batter he has seen the most during his seven-year career. Lee has a .467 average (14-for-30), four homers and 10 RBIs against Marquis, but the Cubs will have to find somebody else to replace those numbers.
Catcher Michael Barrett, who flied out in a pinch-hit at-bat Saturday but had a homer and three RBIs on Friday, has seven hits in 15 at-bats against Marquis, the best performance of any healthy Chicago player.
Barrett has three homers and 10 RBIs against St. Louis this season.