Maddux improves to 4-0 as Cubs dominate Cardinals

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Greg Maddux is turning back the clock for a team missing its offensive star and two of its best pitchers.

The four-time NL Cy Young Award winner, who turned 40 earlier this month, threw seven scoreless innings on Sunday to help the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-3. He has won his first four starts for the first time in his career, to go with a miniscule 0.99 ERA.

Maddux's big start is helping rescue a team that doesn't have Derrek Lee, Mark Prior or Kerry Wood.

"It's just amazing what he does because he's not throwing 94, 93 mph," outfielder Juan Pierre said. "You watch Greg Maddux, that's an art."

Maddux (4-0) held the Cardinals to five hits and also singled and scored, helping the Cubs avert a three-game sweep and win for the first time in three games since losing Lee for at least two months with a broken wrist. This is the first 4-0 start for Maddux since 2000 with the Braves when he needed six starts, and it's his first four-game winning streak since July 17-Aug. 7, 2004.

All month, Maddux has insisted that he's doing nothing different and not trying to fill the void.

"I wish I could explain it," Maddux said. "Personally, I'm just getting ready to pitch like I always have, I'm just catching a lot of breaks.

"Sometimes you catch a few breaks in this game, and right now I am," he said.

Jacque Jones hit his second homer, and second against the Cardinals, leading off the fourth against Jason Marquis (3-1).

Aramis Ramirez, who entered the game in a 3-for-18 slump, hit a two-run shot into the visitor's bullpen beyond the left-field wall in the fifth.

Todd Walker batted in Lee's third slot for the third straight game and had two hits and three RBI to raise his average to .408 for the Cubs, who completed a 5-4 road trip.

"It's nice to get a win without Derrek," Walker said. "We can start believing we can do it."

Albert Pujols, who had six RBI the first two games of the series and entered with the major-league lead in homers (11) and RBI (26), was 0-for-4.

Maddux, the only 40-plus right-handed starter in the major leagues, struck out four and his only walk came to the first batter he faced, David Eckstein. He threw a season-high 93 pitches and lowered his ERA 34 points, mastering the Cardinals for the second time.

"He's not coming with heat; he's never coming with heat," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's coming with a lot of intelligence and a great feel for pitching."

In two starts against the Cardinals, he's 2-0 and has given up one run on nine hits in 13 1/3 innings. Since turning 40 on April 14, he's surrendered one run on eight hits in 15 innings.

Marquis struggled for the first time in four starts this season while facing Maddux, his old mentor from the Braves. He left after the first three batters reached in the seventh, one on his fielding error on Pierre's sacrifice bunt and gave up seven runs -- four earned -- and seven hits.

"I don't know if I struggled all day. I just got away from my game plan and left a few pitches up in the zone," Marquis said. "Some days the mistakes are going be hit out and some days you get away with them."

All four of Marquis' career starts against the Cubs have come against Maddux. He's 1-2 with a 3.90 ERA.

Pierre doubled to lead off the third, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on Walker's infield hit to give the Cubs the lead and Jones' homer in the fourth made it 2-0.

Pierre reached on second baseman Aaron Miles' fielding error on a routine grounder to start the fifth, leading to Ramirez's homer and a pair of unearned runs that put Chicago ahead 4-0.

The Cubs extended the lead to 7-0 in the seventh on Ronny Cedeno's RBI double and Walker's two-run single.

St. Louis got a run in the eighth on Hector Luna's RBI double off Roberto Novoa.

Gary Bennett's two-run double in the ninth ended Ryan Dempster's
run of 32 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run. Dempster, who has converted 23 straight saves, last gave up an earned run on Aug. 12, 2005, at home against the Cardinals in a streak that lasted 31 1/3 innings.

Game notes
Cardinals reliever Brad Thompson had to make a quick jump to his side to avoid getting hit by a bat when Michael Barrett lost
his grip while striking out in the seventh. ... The Cardinals haven't swept the Cubs at home since 2002. ... The Cardinals have sold out all nine games at new Busch Stadium, including paid attendance of 41,373 on Sunday.

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