Cubs clip Cardinals as Maddux triggers lucrative option

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Greg Maddux won his final start at 40-year-old
Busch Stadium, prompting a flood of memories.

"I took some time to reflect back on my experiences here
because I guess you're going to blow it up once the season is
over," Maddux said after throwing 5 2-3 scoreless innings in a 2-1
victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night. "Great
fans, and all that.

"I'm sure they'll be the same fans just a block down the road
or whatever."

Maddux topped 400 innings over the last two seasons, triggering
an automatic $9 million option for next season, when he struck out
Hector Luna for the second out in the fourth inning of his 317th
career victory.

"If they want me I'd love to come back," Maddux said. "I'm
not going to play because I can, I'm going to play because I
deserve it."

The Cubs got just enough off Mark Mulder early and took two of
three from the team with the NL's best record, winning their first
season series in St. Louis since 1995.

Neifi Perez had an RBI double and Matt Murton a run-scoring
single on consecutive at-bats with two outs in the second for the
Cubs, who were 5-3 in St. Louis. The Cardinals lead the majors with
an 88-52 record and have lost only three of 16 series since the
All-Star break, all three to the Cubs.

The Cubs are 8-4 against the Cardinals this season, but 61-67
otherwise. The Cardinals are 42-20 against the NL Central overall,
with a losing record only against Chicago.

"I mean, that's just baseball," infielder Abraham Nunez said.
"I can't explain the success they've had against us."

Albert Pujols hit his 37th homer and singled twice for the
Cardinals. David Eckstein got an infield hit in the third to extend
his hitting streak to a season-best 13 games.

Maddux (12-11) allowed seven hits, struck out four and walked
two. He escaped a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the third when
Jim Edmonds grounded into a home-to-first double play and John
Mabry struck out. The Cardinals were 0-for-5 with runners in
scoring position against Maddux, who finished 13-8 with a 2.97 ERA
at Busch.

His outing was perhaps shortened by a grounder off his right
foot that ended up as an infield hit for Eckstein in the third.

"It was one of those games where I just felt I was always in a
jam," Maddux said. "You never really get a chance to kind of get
your second wind or whatever.

"I hit a wall and when you're done the bullpen has a lot better
chance than you do. The bullpen was great."

Mulder (15-7) scattered 10 hits in his third complete game of
the year and 25th of his career, continuing a second-half surge. He
allowed two runs, struck out three and didn't walk a batter,
throwing 96 pitches. He's 2-1 with two complete games in his last
four starts, giving up four earned runs in 34 innings, a 1.06 ERA.

"When I'm throwing a good sinker, I get a lot of quick outs,"
Mulder said. "If I get beat, I want to get beat on my best pitches
and that's what happened. I can handle that."

Pujols homered for the second time in three games with two outs
in the seventh off Michael Wuertz to make it 2-1. He was 3-for-4,
raising his average to .337.

Ryan Dempster, the Cubs' fourth pitcher, worked the ninth for
his 24th save. He got Nunez on a called third strike with a runner
on third for the final out.

Game notes
St. Louis' So Taguchi doubled in the sixth for his first
extra-base hit since Aug. 16. ... Eckstein is 23-for-56 during his
streak. ... Perez grounded into double plays in the seventh and
ninth, giving him a team-leading 20 this season. ... Edmonds made a
running over-the-shoulder catch of pinch-hitter Jose Macias' drive
to the center field wall leading off the eighth. ... Attendance of
47,789 was the Cardinals' 38th sellout and 30th straight game with
40,000 or more. ... Maddux is one behind Phil Niekro for 15th on
the career victory list.