Prior goes prime time in Game 3
CHICAGO -- While the fans may treat him a little differently now than they did when he was a young Cub phenom like Mark Prior, Greg Maddux still always looks forward to the chance to reintroduce himself to the familiar surroundings at Wrigley Field.
Maddux, who began his illustrious career with the Cubs in 1986, will be back in the friendly confines on Friday night, attempting to conquer Cubs sophomore sensation Mark Prior and his former team in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
"It's been over a decade since I pitched here last," Maddux said. "But I do know the ballpark probably as well as any road park in the league."
Maddux, whose Braves evened the best-of-five series at a game apiece on Wednesday night, has posted a 3.15 ERA in 109 regular-season starts at Wrigley Field. In his most recent postseason appearance there, he completed the Braves' sweep of the Cubs with a Game 3 victory in the 1998 Division Series.
|One for the ages|
|Sophomore sensation Mark Prior and four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux square off Friday night. Here's a tale of the tape:|
|2||Years of experience||18|
"To go up against a guy like Greg, he's a pretty remarkable pitcher, and what he's done over his career, I'm honored," said Prior, who was 12 years old when Maddux won his first of four consecutive Cy Young Awards. "I wouldn't want it any other way. This is my opportunity. Hopefully it goes in our favor."
While this will be Prior's first postseason start, it will be the 28th for Maddux, who like everyone else around the baseball world has been impressed with the young Cubs' right-hander, who is among the leading candidates to win the Cy Young Award this year.
"He's easily one of the best pitchers in the game," Maddux said of Prior. "He's one of the few who has great stuff but also pitches. You know, I'm trying to beat the lineup, not necessarily the pitcher. You have to beat lineups to win; not the opposing pitcher. And there is no question he's very good at what he does."
So too is Maddux, who this year became the first pitcher to win at least 15 games over 16 consecutive seasons.
"You know, we have a little momentum on our side right now, and we need to try to keep it down to a three-game series," Maddux said. "I only know one way to pitch. I'm going to go out there and pitch the way I know and give us a chance to win."
But Maddux realizes he'll be in a hostile environment surrounded by fans, some of whom are still pained by the fact that he left Chicago for Atlanta before the start of the 1993 season.
"I'm sure I'll get called a few things," Maddux said. "I'll go out there and try to pitch. The fans here support their team very well, and part of being a Cub fan is beating on the other team. I would be very surprised if there weren't things said to me when I'm warming up or before the game. It's perfectly normal to be called something before the game starts, during the game and after the game. Some of them are funny."
That was also Maddux's response to the fact that Cubs manager Dusty Baker classified him as a "veteran of many wars lion" and Prior as a "new young lion."
"It's better than being just old, I guess," said the 37-year-old Maddux, who helped the Cubs advance to the postseason in 1989.
This is just the second time the Cubs have been back to the playoffs since 1989 and Maddux realizes the importance of this series to the loyal North Side fans.
"You know, it's been a long time since they won, and I'm sure it means a lot to their fans," Maddux said. "I've always felt this city has probably wanted to win more than any other city we go to. I'm going to try not to let it happen."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or