PHOENIX (AP)—Greg Maddux is 322-181 against 27 major-league teams.
He’s 1-9 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and 0-5 in Chase Field.
“I just don’t pitch good here,” Maddux (5-1) said after the Diamondbacks beat him 5-1 Wednesday night, snapping his season-opening five-game win streak. “I always leave a couple balls over the plate, and give them credit for hitting.”
The Diamondbacks can certainly hit. They came into the game with a .270 team batting average, fifth in the National League.
On Wednesday night, they battered Maddux for 10 hits, the most he’s surrendered in a game this year. The biggest blow was Chad Tracy’s three-run home run, which came one night after he hit his first career grand slam.
The hot-hitting Diamondbacks have won a season-high four straight games.
Maddux arrived in the major leagues in 1986, 12 years before Arizona did. But the Diamondbacks have mostly treated him like a farmhand, and it didn’t matter whether he was pitching for Atlanta or Chicago.
Maddux has a career 3.00 earned-run average. Against Arizona, he has a bloated 5.21 ERA in 14 starts.
The Diamondbacks are the only National League team with a winning record against Maddux, who has spent his entire 20-year career in the NL.
“Everybody has a nemesis,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
On Wednesday night, Maddux was outpitched by Arizona starter Miguel Batista (3-1), who has 263 fewer career victories than Maddux. Batista brought a 6.33 ERA into the game but allowed only one run in seven innings.
Maddux opened the season 5-0 for the first time in his illustrious career, setting a record for April victories by a Cub starting pitcher. But whatever was working for him last month wasn’t working Wednesday night.
Maddux, known for his cerebral approach, was well aware of his struggles against the Diamondbacks. But he said he tried not to make a big deal about it as he prepared for the game.
“You give yourself a pep talk at the time,” he said. “Mentally, I’m fine.”
Maddux had allowed a total of five runs in his first five starts. The Diamondbacks tagged him for five in the five innings.
“We’ve had success on him, so we didn’t come in thinking he’s Greg Maddux, 5-0 with a 1.35 (ERA),” said Tracy, who also hit a sacrifice fly for his fourth RBI. “We were ready to go out there and face him.”
The Diamondbacks’ first run came when Conor Jackson, who had never faced Maddux, lined a double over center fielder Juan Pierre’s head to lead off the second inning. Jackson moved to third on Shawn Green’s groundout and scored on Johnny Estrada’s sacrifice fly.
Arizona scored three more times in the third. Batista led off with a single — his second hit in 12 at-bats this season—and moved to third on a double by Eric Byrnes. That set the stage for Tracy’s fifth home run.
“I gave up the hit to the pitcher and that kind of started a big inning there,” Maddux said. “You’ve got to get the pitcher out, especially when he’s leading off an inning.”
Maddux helped himself in the fourth, drawing a four-pitch walk to force in the Cubs’ first run. The Cubs had loaded the bases on a leadoff double by Aramis Ramirez, a single by Jacque Jones and a walk to Michael Barrett.
Batista ended that threat by getting Pierre to bounce to the mound.
Batista pitched around trouble for most of the night. The Cubs put runners on in each of the first six innings, and had runners in scoring position in the second, third, fourth and fifth.
The Diamondbacks turned four double plays—tying a club record—to keep Batista out of trouble.
“We had him on the ropes, and when you get him on the ropes, you’ve got to get him,” Baker said. “We had more opportunities tonight than we’ve had in the last week.”
The Cubs mounted one last threat in the ninth. The first two batters reached against reliever Casey Daigle, and closer Jose Valverde walked Pierre to load the bases with one out. But Valverde struck out Ronny Cedeno and got Todd Walker to bounce to first base to end the game. Valverde earned his eighth save in nine opportunities and his third in as many days.
And just like that, the Diamondbacks had beaten Maddux again.
“You have to consider yourself lucky every time you beat that guy,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.
Arizona SS Craig Counsell had one steal in his first 18 games. He had two Wednesday night. … Tracy has eight RBIs in his last two games.