© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
LOS ANGELES -- With his comments after throwing a one-hitter over seven innings Friday night, you would have thought Greg Maddux gave up six runs but still managed to come away with a win.
"It's just baseball," the 40-year-old said. "Sometimes you win for no reason, and it was one of those nights for us. It was a good night for us."
Maddux was very much the reason the Dodgers won, 3-1, on Friday, after he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, allowing Los Angeles to keep the Padres at bay while dropping them to 1 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the National League West race.
"Nothing he does surprises me," manager Grady Little said. "Nothing he does surprises anyone. He's an amazing human being. There's a reason why he's done what he's done in his career."
Maddux (13-13) did not allow a hit through 6 1/3 innings, when Brian Giles hit a single to right field. Giles was quickly erased when Mike Piazza grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
The right-hander faced just one batter over the minimum in his seven innings of work, walking three and striking out one. Behind every good pitching performance is a defense making big plays at big moments, and Friday's gem was no different. Of course, with the way Maddux pitched, there was rarely a moment when he needed a big defensive play. But when the Dodgers' defense was called upon, it came through.
The solid performance started in the first inning, when Maddux dealt a leadoff walk to Dave Roberts, a player no pitcher or catcher wants to see on base. Roberts was sitting on 42 stolen bases coming into Friday, fourth-best in the National League.
That number stayed at 42 after catcher Russell Martin gunned down Roberts trying to steal second, which allowed Maddux to coast through the rest of the inning, getting Todd Walker and Giles to ground out to second base.
Right fielder J.D. Drew kept the no-hitter alive in the third inning, when Geoff Blum led off the inning with a short drive to right field. Drew ran it down just inside fair territory.
"J.D. made a great play in right field," Maddux said. "No one even noticed that ball he ran down on Blum, that one he hit early in the game. I told the umpire I couldn't believe he caught that ball."
The next one Drew caught off the bat of Blum came in the fifth inning. It was a routine fly ball, but ended the only inning in which Maddux saw four batters. He walked Mike Cameron with two outs, and Cameron stole second before Blum's flyout.
In his ninth start since coming to the Dodgers at the trade deadline, Maddux was the beneficiary of two double plays, including the one to end his final inning. The ever-efficient Maddux threw just 68 pitches on Friday night, 43 of them strikes.
"Nothing he does surprises me. Nothing he does surprises anyone. He's an amazing human being. There's a reason why he's done what he's done in his career."
-- Dodgers manager Grady Little, on Greg Maddux
Had he not given up the single to Giles, would Maddux have continued to pitch, in an attempt at his first career no hitter?
"I don't know," said Maddux. "Good question. Probably. But mentally, I was pretty much done."
Padres starter David Wells was done after allowing two runs in five innings. Both came in the fourth, when Wells saw seven batters. A 6-4-3 double play that erased the first two hitters of the inning likely saved the inning from being worse for the Padres and Wells.
After the double play, Jeff Kent walked, and the Dodgers reeled off three hits. Drew's double to the wall in straightaway center field scored Kent from first, and Julio Lugo's bloop single to right field scored Drew.
"You would like to match zeroes with him and have that type of game," said Wells (2-4), who struck out two and walked one. "Right now, it's not my turn. [Maddux] was dealing. That's what he does. This hasn't been a stellar year for him, but he knows how to pitch."
Dodgers closer Takashi Saito showed he knows how to pitch, too, striking out the first two batters he faced looking, and then forcing Giles to ground out to first base for his 19th save on the season.
The news wasn't all good for the Dodgers, as Nomar Garciaparra left after the sixth inning with a strained left quadricep. Garciaparra is considered day-to-day.
The night belonged to Maddux, despite his not feeling like he didn't locate like he wanted. Afterwards, he didn't feel anything was working particularly well to keep the Padres players off balance.
"Just effectively wild, if anything," Maddux said. "I didn't really throw it where I wanted to. I think that helped, because everyone knows where I want to throw it half the time anyways."
Whether they knew or not, it still worked on Friday.