For sure, Maddux will have a very long time to savor this victory.
"Looking back, years from now, it will be a special game," said Maddux after outpitching Clemens in the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 win
over the Houston Astros on Friday night. "I was going to do whatever it took tonight to win this one."
Jeromy Burnitz went 3-for-4, including a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning, to send the Cubs to a victory over their bitter NL Central rival that passed them up in the final week for a wild-card berth last season.
Maddux (1-1) got his 306th career win and first since the Cubs' 2004 season finale against Atlanta. He lasted six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
Maddux was lifted in the seventh for a pinch-hitter, and Michael Wuertz, Will Ohman and Roberto Novoa combined to pitch two scoreless innings before LaTroy Hawkins pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save.
"He's a master at knowing how to pitch," Astros manager Phil Garner said of Maddux. "I don't know why every pitcher in America wouldn't buy a tape of him just to learn how to pitch."
Clemens (1-1) pitched seven strong innings to hold up his end of the marquee matchup. The Rocket allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out five while walking two. He even went 2-for-2 at the plate, only the second multihit game of his 22-year career.
But mostly because of the Houston offense, second-worst in the majors, Clemens failed in his fourth straight attempt at winning his 330th game and remained tied with Steve Carlton for ninth on the all-time list.
"Anytime he's on the mound we want to do our best," said Astros right fielder Jason Lane, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. "It's very frustrating that we haven't been getting him runs. We want to be able to give him runs the way he's been pitching."
Burnitz drove in two runs and finished only a triple short of the cycle to decide the first matchup between 300-game winners since 1987.
The 36-year-old Burnitz is the rare major-league hitter to have had some success against Clemens, improving his career totals to .363 (8-for-22) with two homers.
"I was lucky to get some good swings and pitches to hit," Burnitz said. "Does anybody really do anything against him? I got maybe a few hits before, but that's about it."
Before Friday, there had been only four matchups of 300-game winners in the modern era, all between June 28, 1986, to Aug. 4, 1987, all involving California's Don Sutton in the American League. Sutton made two starts against Phil Niekro and one apiece against
Tom Seaver and Carlton.
The last time two NL pitchers with 300 or more victories faced each other was in July 21, 1892, between Philadelphia's Tim Keefe and St. Louis' Jim "Pud" Galvin.
"You can count on the number of fingers how many times future Hall of Famers face each other," Clemens said. "I feel very privileged to pitch when Greg does."
Not surprisingly, offense was in short supply with Clemens and Maddux bringing a combined 11 Cy Young Awards -- seven for Clemens and four for Maddux -- into their highly anticipated duel.
Coming off an 0-5 trip that ended with consecutive 2-0 losses at Pittsburgh, the Astros did all of their scoring early.
The Cubs responded by snapping Clemens' streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings on Burnitz's bloop RBI single in the second. Todd Hollandsworth followed with a run-scoring double to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.
Houston's Jeff Bagwell led off the fourth with a 347-foot shot that landed just inside the left foul pole, tying the game at 2. It was Bagwell's seventh career homer off Maddux.
But Burnitz sent Clemens' pitch 407 feet over the right field fence in the seventh -- only the second homer Clemens has allowed this year -- for the go-ahead score.
"It was nice to be a part of a historic event," Burnitz said. "It might not happen again, so it was a special night and fun to be a part of."
The Astros played without closer Brad Lidge and shortstop Adam Everett. Both players had flu-like symptoms. ... At 12-10, the Cubs will finish above .500 in April for the third straight season for the first time since 1945-47. ... Up next on the wins list for Maddux is Mickey Welch at 309. ... Clemens and Maddux faced each other once before, in 2000 when Clemens was with the Yankees and Maddux was in Atlanta. The Braves won 11-7 with neither pitcher getting a decision. ... Clemens' 18-year-old son, Koby, threw his second-straight no-hitter for Houston Memorial High on Friday night. Koby has signed a letter of intent to play with the University of Texas, Clemens' alma mater.