CHICAGO (AP) -- As Roger Clemens went into his motion to deliver
his first pitch on a hot and humid night, flashbulbs popped from
every angle and corner of Wrigley Field.
Clemens draws attention everywhere he goes, but this night
featured more history than usual -- a rare matchup of 300-game
winners with Greg Maddux providing the opposition.
"I think it's why we do it. So that the fans, especially in
this stadium that is so rich in history, can come out and enjoy
Clemens (2-3) threw six shutout innings to earn his 343rd career
victory and move into sole possession of eighth place on the career
list. He allowed three hits, walked one and struck out five.
"I know when I'm going up against Greg it's going to be a
battle of wills," Clemens said. "That's for sure on a hot sticky
night like it was tonight. It was going to come down to who made
the mistake first."
Maddux did, surrendering a leadoff homer to Craig Biggio.
Maddux (7-11) allowed seven hits and three runs in seven innings
with no walks and three strikeouts. He lost his sixth straight
decision and hasn't won since June 9. Maddux, who turned 40 in
April, threw 102 pitches and remained at 325 wins.
"I love watching Greg work," Clemens said. "He's definitely
one of the guys I admire in how he goes about his work. I'd
definitely pay to see him pitch."
Biggio's 49th career leadoff homer -- already an NL record -- on
Maddux's second pitch of the game got Houston off quickly. And the
Astros went up 3-0 in the sixth on a two-run double by Preston Wilson.
Clemens, less than a month from his 44th birthday, threw 85
pitches on the 85-degree night.
"He doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but he still has that
pinpoint control," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He's sharp
enough to get you out. When a guy is throwing strikes, especially
quality strikes, it's a bit difficult to hit."
And the Rocket can still bring it when needed. When Juan Pierre
singled and stole second in the sixth inning, giving the Cubs a
potential rally, Clemens threw a 91 mph pitch to strike out Derrek Lee and then got Aramis Ramirez to ground out sharply to second.
"That was vintage Roger. He gave us six great innings and that
was something we needed," Houston manager Phil Garner said.
"Everyone thinks he just rears back and throws it by you,"
Maddux said of Clemens. "He's got good location, he's got good
Maddux said the pre-game hype about facing another 300-winner
wasn't on his mind. He agreed it could mean more when he's finished
pitching, but history isn't what concerns him right now.
"You are playing to win. You are not playing to get a nice
picture in your room at home or something," he said.
It was the second meeting in as many seasons between two of the
game's greatest right-handers, both of whom entered Wednesday's
game with losing records.
Maddux beat Clemens 3-2 on April 29, 2005, in Houston. Before
that game at Minute Maid Park, the last time two 300-game winners
met was 1987, when Steve Carlton, then with Minnesota, faced Don
Sutton, pitching at the time for California.
And before Clemens and Maddux met last season, the last matchup
of 300-game winners in the National League came in 1892 between
Philadelphia's Tim Keefe and St. Louis' Jim "Pud" Galvin.
Maddux, a 15-time Gold Glove winner, handled seven comebackers,
including a bunt from Chris Burke that he picked up and threw to
third to get Mike Lamb. Lamb led off with an infield single and
stole second in the sixth.
But with two outs, Aubrey Huff singled Burke to third and Wilson
followed with his two-run double to right center to make it 3-0.
"I'm not pitching good enough to win," Maddux said. "Good
enough to stay in games, but not pitching good enough to win."
The Astros added a run in the ninth when Wilson doubled, moved
up on a sacrifice and scored on Adam Everett's squeeze bunt.
Brad Lidge pitched the ninth for his 22nd save in 26 chances.
Maddux and Clemens also met in 2000 when Clemens was with
the Yankees and Maddux with the Braves. Neither figured in the
decision of Atlanta's 11-7 win. ... Biggio's homer was his 2,885th
hit, giving him sole possession of 34th place all-time. ... 2B
Walker, who made two errors during the Mets' 11-run inning Sunday,
didn't start for the second straight game, even though he had a
lifetime .349 average against Clemens. ... The crowd was 40,344.