Giant milestone: Maddux fans No. 3,000
Righty whiffs Vizquel, becomes 13th pitcher to accomplish feat
CHICAGO -- Greg Maddux is now Mr. 3,000.
The Chicago Cubs pitcher, who relies on pinpoint location rather than a blazing fastball, became the 13th pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts when he whiffed San Francisco's Omar Vizquel on Tuesday night to end the third inning.
With flashbulbs popping from the fans who stayed despite a 2-hour, 43-minute delay, Maddux jumped ahead, 0-2, on Vizquel, who fouled the first two pitches off. The next two pitches were balls, and then Vizquel was called out on strikes by home plate umpire Joe Brinkman.
Maddux calmly walked off the mound, but catcher Michael Barrett ran over to hug him as did his teammates. The right-hander, not one for hoopla, finally stepped to the top of the dugout step to tip his cap to the crowd.
Maddux didn't waste any time counting down to 3,000 as he fanned Giants leadoff batter Jason Ellison to start the game for No. 2,999.
"Every pitch he's got is potentially a strikeout pitch," Cubs outfielder Jeromy Burnitz said. "To him, some of them are his 'Get 'em up, get 'em over the plate' pitches, but everything he does involves movement and speed changes.
"He was easily describable for me -- he had six or eight different pitches and mastered the location of every one of them," Burnitz said. "That's Greg Maddux."
For the record, Burnitz has fanned 14 times in 42 at-bats against Maddux.
"Honestly, I bet the number of different pitches that were strikeout pitches are spread across the whole spectrum of what he's got," Burnitz said. "He's mastered the craft, period."
The other members of the 3,000-K club include Nolan Ryan (5,714 strikeouts), Roger Clemens (4,440), Randy Johnson (4,303), Steve Carlton (4,136), Bert Blyleven (3,701), Tom Seaver (3,640), Don Sutton (3,574), Gaylord Perry (3,534), Walter Johnson (3,508), Phil Niekro (3,342), Ferguson Jenkins (3,192) and Bob Gibson (3,117). It's an elite group.
"From my perspective, [his success] is based on longevity, consistency and positive results," Cubs outfielder Todd Hollandsworth said of Maddux.
"He's been pitching for a long time and I think even Greg would tell you he'd rather have nine innings, 85 pitches and 27 ground-ball outs as opposed to striking out 3,000 guys," Hollandsworth said. "That's not taking anything away from what he's done and we applaud him for what he's done. But I think it's more him attacking the strike zone and being a really, really good pitcher."
The start of Tuesday's game was delayed nearly three hours because of rain. Maddux probably spent the down time replaying past at-bats against the Giants hitters in his mind.
"He's very humble externally and very confident internally, and very prepared," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Maddux. "He knows himself. He knows the opposition. He knows the umpires -- everything that goes into the equation of getting people out. He studies -- this guy studies."
Maddux is the second Cubs pitcher to record 3,000 strikeouts, joining Jenkins. Coincidently, the two right-handers both wore No. 31 for the Cubs.
"All he has to do is keep pitching and he'll get it," Baker said. "He wants to win. He loves to win. He's used to winning. All he has to do is pitch and he'll get the strikeouts. You don't really think of him as a strikeout pitcher, but he's struck out a lot of people if he's got 3,000."
There's a long list of strikeout victims, ranging from Bobby Abreu (11 Ks) to Todd Zeile (14), and spanning a career that began in 1986 with the Cubs and included a successful stretch from 1993-2003 with the Atlanta Braves. He returned to Chicago for the 2004 season.
"He's simplified it to the point where, 'I want to maximize my pitches each and every day, and if I strike a guy out, I strike a guy out,'" Hollandsworth said. "There's certain situations in a game where he might be looking for a strikeout, but I think he'd rather get 27 groundouts."
And yes, Hollandsworth is on the Maddux strikeout ledger, having fanned five times in 16 at-bats.
Cubs catcher Michael Barrett is 11-for-32 in his career against Maddux and has struck out three times. None of his hits were for extra bases.
"We kid about some of my at-bats," Barrett said. "I probably have some of the cheapest hits known to man off of him.
"It's a credit to his style of pitching," Barrett said. "I don't think I have more than a single off him and I think he'd rather give up a single than walk a guy. At least by inducing contact, he gives himself an opportunity to get an out.
"I've enjoyed more than anything working with him, and him being patient with me and working with me to help me understand the game better and understand his game better," Barrett said. "I think down the stretch, it'll be a fun experience to look back on. It's productive when you think about what I've learned and how I've applied it to catching other guys. It basically comes down to keeping it so simple. You put yourself at better odds when you keep things simple."
Which is Maddux's credo. He will become the ninth pitcher to post both 300 wins and 3,000 Ks, joining Ryan, Clemens, Carlton, Seaver, Sutton, Perry and Johnson. And he is the first to notch the milestones against the same team. On Aug. 7, 2004, Maddux joined the 300-win club against the Giants.
"It's been a privilege, that's for sure, and a blessing," Barrett said about catching Maddux. "I just love being on the same team as him and learning from him as a teammate. I think it's elevated my game in so many ways -- it's helped me as a player, it's helped me as a person. To be able to be part of this is truly special."
Maddux was supposed to be a mentor to the young Cubs pitchers, but he's tutored Barrett on the fine points of the game as well.
"He's worked with me and showed a lot of patience with me when he's out there pitching," Barrett said. "There are times when I'm not even close to where he is. He's a quality teammate. He helps me understand what he's thinking, and when you can get into the mind of a guy like that who's been around as long as he has, it can help in so many ways. It can help as a player, as a hitter, it can help you all together."
Ask about an at-bat in the past, and the 39-year-old right-hander can recite the count, the pitch he threw, and what the batter had for breakfast. He pays attention to the game.
"Maddux has done nothing in his entire career except help the team win," Barrett said. "It's never been about himself, it's been about the team. There's nothing more to it than that.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.