Dodgers hope for a Maddux redux
Righty out to help Los Angeles avoid elimination in Game 3
LOS ANGELES -- If there's ever anyone to start a must-win game, Greg Maddux is your man.
The sure-fire Hall of Fame pitcher will toe the rubber at Dodger Stadium on Saturday in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at 4:30 p.m. PT in an effort to steer his club away from elimination.
There aren't too many pitchers out there other than the Dodgers would rather have on the mound against the Mets.
"He's an artist out there and always paints a good picture," manager Grady Little said. "There's no doubt in my mind that he will take a plan out with him [on Saturday] to that game and get the best results he can get."
The Dodgers must hope those results are better than Maddux's surprising sub-.500 mark in the postseason. Despite a 3.22 ERA in 31 playoff games, the veteran is only 11-14.
Maddux's season was all but destined for another playoff-less year, that is until the Dodgers gave up Cesar Izturis in the waning moments of the trading deadline to acquire the veteran from the Cubs. Since then, the 40-year-old righty has been vintage Maddux.
He began his career in Los Angeles with six innings of no-hit baseball, and ended his regular season leading the Dodgers to a playoff berth in San Francisco on the second-to-last day of the year.
"When you get traded, you want to make the people that traded for you look good," Maddux said. "I think it's easier to do the things on the four days you're not pitching when your team is in a pennant race."
The 21-year veteran was 6-3 with a 3.30 ERA in his two months with the Dodgers, markedly better than the 4.69 ERA he posted with the Cubs. Maddux has also been at his best at Dodger Stadium, with a 3-1 record and a 1.76 ERA in six starts this year.
Saturday's contest will mark Maddux's first postseason game since 2003, though he has spent 11 years of his career playing October baseball. All that experience has taught Maddux not to treat a postseason start any different than any ho-hum game in the regular season.
"Everything is the same as it is during the season, there's just more eyewash outside it," he said. "You just do what you can do to kind of fight through it, and get ready for them the way you get ready for them in Spring Training and in April, May, June, July and so on."
Throughout his career, Maddux has succeeded with pinpoint command and a devastating knack of pitch selection. It all comes during a time where 100-plus mph pitches are all the rage, but as Maddux and his 333 career wins have shown, it's not always the successful route.
"He's a master at pitching, actually," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He's like Tom Glavine -- those guys have a knack for pitching. If you look in the dictionary, that's what you'll see -- those kinds of guys."
As precise as Maddux has been throughout his career, the Mets don't seem to care. In three starts against them this year, Maddux has given up 15 runs and 16 hits in 18 1/3 innings -- amounting to a 1-2 record and a 7.36 ERA.
Still, his opposition knows nothing will ever come easy against one of the best pitchers of his generation.
"He learned how to pitch a long time ago, it's allowed him to become great," Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "It doesn't matter how hard you throw or how fast you throw, if you got movement and control, you can pitch for a long time."
Maddux will oppose another control artist in the form of Steve Trachsel. The Mets right-hander has also been tagged by his Game 3 competition this year, as he allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Dodgers on Sept. 10.
With a bullpen already smarting from southpaw reliever Joe Beimel's bar-induced injury to his finger, Maddux might need to give his club more innings than what he's averaged in his 12 starts in Dodgers blue this year.
Maddux hasn't made it through the sixth inning in three of his last eight starts and has thrown more than 80 pitches only twice. Little, though, just wants his starter to do all he can to give fans a reason to come to Dodger Stadium for a possible Game 4.
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"We are confident in the fact that whatever he gives us out there is going to be the very best he can give us for as long as he can," Little said.
With his club desperate for a victory, a standout performance in Game 3 could become one of the many stories told about Maddux when baseball fans stand before his plaque in Cooperstown for years to come.
"He knows his team needs him [Saturday]," Floyd said.
And the Dodgers wouldn't want anyone other than Maddux on the mound with the chance to come through for them in a pressure situation.
Greg Wagner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.