Giants 6, Cubs 2

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Though Jason Schmidt could have rested an extra day, he volunteered to pitch in an important game for the San Francisco Giants.

That type of dedication has turned Schmidt into the NL’s winningest pitcher — and though he didn’t have his best stuff, Schmidt hung on for his 100th career victory.

Schmidt struck out 11 in his NL-leading 14th win, Michael Tucker hit a three-run homer and the Giants beat the Chicago Cubs 6-2 Friday night in the opener of a key three-game series between playoff contenders.

One night before Chicago’s Greg Maddux goes for his 300th win, Schmidt (14-4) earned his 100th despite struggling through seven innings. With little control of his fastball, he threw far more curveballs than normal—and he made enough big pitches to strand seven runners in scoring position.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t felt right the last five or six starts,” Schmidt said. “I go through this every year. I have a streak of six or seven starts where nothing works … and then something clicks.”

Schmidt spent most of the week preparing to start Saturday, but after a week of deliberation, the Giants decided Thursday night to use their ace instead of reliever Tyler Walker, who was expected to fill a hole in their rotation. Schmidt went to manager Felipe Alou to ask for the assignment.

“I believe we were right when we wanted to give him an extra day off, because he didn’t really have his good stuff tonight,” Alou said. “But it was also good that he decided to pitch the game today, because we needed it.”

Maddux will go for his 300th win Saturday against right-hander Brad Hennessey, recalled from the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate in Fresno to make his major league debut.

J.T. Snow hit a two-run homer and Tucker drove in four runs for the Giants, who got just their third win in nine games. The Cubs’ four-game winning streak was snapped, and their lead in the NL wild-card race shrank to one game over San Diego and two games over the Giants.

Nomar Garciaparra got three hits and scored a run, but the Cubs repeatedly failed to capitalize on scoring chances against Schmidt, who was shaky at home for the third straight start.

“We hit some balls pretty good off Schmitty tonight, had him in trouble a lot,” Chicago manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s such a good pitcher that he can strike his way out of that. He’s a great pitcher when he needs to be.”

Though only Oakland’s Mark Mulder has more wins than Schmidt, the San Francisco ace allowed nine hits and three walks. Schmidt survived with timely strikeouts and a few lucky breaks, eventually stranding 10 runners.

Matt Clement (8-11) was even less effective for Chicago, allowing five hits, four walks and a season-high six runs while dropping to 2-6 in his last 11 starts.

“We both bent a little bit tonight, and I guess I broke and he didn’t,” Clement said. “That’s why he’s probably going to win the Cy Young Award. I can’t give up six runs and expect to win against Jason Schmidt.”

Schmidt’s 100th win meant little to him. He failed in his previous attempt to reach the milestone, losing to St. Louis’ Woody Williams last Sunday in Williams’ 100th win.

“I’m on a good team, I’m getting great defense and a lot of runs, and I’m benefiting from it,” Schmidt said with a shrug.

In the second, Clement walked Barry Bonds and Snow before Tucker hit a one-out pitch into the arcade atop the right-field wall.

It was the 10th homer of the season for Tucker, whose hitting and defense have been remarkable since the Giants acquired Ricky Ledee last week in a trade with Philadelphia.

“I knew I hit it good, but I didn’t think it was high enough to go out,” Tucker said. “It’s always a pleasant surprise to see a ball go out.”

Tucker drove home Bonds with a fourth-inning single, and Snow added a two-run shot in the fifth—also onto the right-field arcade.

Garciaparra had two doubles, a single and a walk while boosting his NL average to .318, but his new teammates stranded him three times.

Michael Barrett and Moises Alou had run-scoring hits against Schmidt, but the Cubs wasted far too many scoring chances. Corey Patterson and Derrek Lee struck out with two runners on to end innings, and Sammy Sosa ended the third with a bases-loaded foul popout.

Notes

Bonds stole his fifth base of the season in the fourth inning when Garciaparra dropped Barrett’s exceptional throw. It was Bonds’ 505th career stolen base and his 255th with San Francisco. … Schmidt got at least 10 strikeouts for the eighth time this season and the 24th time in his career. … The Giants optioned RHP Merkin Valdez back to Double-A Norwich to make room for Hennessey.

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