Early homers pave way for Maddux

Maddux wins No. 344

PHOENIX -- He has won games in baseball's hallowed grounds (Yankee Stadium), and won games in venues that were flattened years ago (Veterans Stadium). Victories in 31 different stadiums.

But, by no means does that mean 41-year-old Greg Maddux -- a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer -- has won everywhere during a career that started in 1986, or one year before Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton was born.

Maddux, it seemed, had never won a game in Arizona before Monday. Not when it was called Bank One Ballpark and not under its current name, Chase Field. Ten starts, zero career victories and no logical way to explain it.

Even after he pitched six-plus strong innings in the Padres' 10-2 victory over Arizona at Chase Field, a game that featured five home runs by San Diego hitters, Maddux was still at a loss as to why he's had such little success against the Diamondbacks, as were his teammates.

"This is Greg Maddux's first win at this park?" said Adrian Gonzalez, who sounded as if someone was trying to pull a fast one on him. "There you go -- it's an accomplishment."

And a meaningful one at that, and not just because the victory allowed Maddux to gain possession of career victory No. 344, but because San Diego's victory over Arizona (76-63) allowed the Padres (76-51) to slip into sole possession of first place in the National League West by a full game for the first time since July 8.

Maddux (11-9) won for the fourth time in his last five starts and continued a blissful run since the All-Star break by allowing two runs over 6 1/3 innings with five strikeouts. He also extended his consecutive streak of innings without a walk to 48 1/3.

He continues to give the Padres a lift in a critical stretch where Chris Young has missed three starts and the spot vacated by David Wells last month has mostly gone unclaimed.

Maddux has done it by, well, just being himself.

"He was the same old Maddux. He's looked the same to me ever since I've been in the league," said Arizona's Eric Byrnes, who had a solo home run off Maddux. "He's good, he's really good. ... We have seen him before, he wasn't tricking us. He wasn't throwing anything we hadn't seen before."

Mixing pitches, changing speeds and commanding the strike zone with a ball that moves unlike so many others -- it's a formula that worked well for Maddux in 1987, one that he had perfected by 1997 and one that he continues to rely on in 2007.

"He can be extremely frustrating to everyone," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I think with young hitters, if you start trying to think with Greg, you're in trouble."

Facing a youthful Diamondbacks team with five starting players -- Mark Reynolds, Chris Young, Conor Jackson, Stephen Drew and Upton -- 25 years old or younger, Maddux was able to coax the Arizona hitters into a bevy of ground-ball outs (11), especially early in the count.

"When you have 340-something wins and not have one in this park is incredible," Black said. "If it weighed on him, it didn't show today."

San Diego second baseman Geoff Blum, who successfully handled seven of those ground balls, said he spent half of his time on defense fielding routine ground balls and the other half admiring the way Maddux mowed through the lineup with efficient precision.

"You can't think along his game plan," Blum said. "I think Greg is so good at picking up little things in guys' swings before they do. He makes adjustments before the game and during the game."

True to form, Maddux -- who is now 2-10 in 18 career starts against the Diamondbacks -- deflected the attention away from his successful start Monday by pointing out the other notable storyline from the game -- offense.

"Runs," Maddux said. "We scored runs. If you go out there long enough, you're going to get 10 runs. It's nice to see the guys add on."

Maddux was handed a 1-0 lead before he threw his first pitch, as San Diego leadoff hitter Brian Giles drilled the second pitch of the game from Micah Owings (6-8) over the fence in right field for the first of his two home runs.

The Padres added two more runs in the second inning and two more in the third, as Blum, Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff each hit home runs in the game to get this nine-game road trip to Arizona, Colorado and Los Angeles started in a good way.

That it came against the Diamondbacks, a team the Padres have split 16 games with this season, was notable if for no other reason than San Diego has taken four-of-five games from the Diamondbacks in the last week.

The Padres have won 11 of their last 14 games and have, for one day at least, reclaimed their spot alone atop of the National League West standings which, for Black at least, doesn't mean a whole lot on Sept. 3.

But it sure beats the Diamondbacks perspective these days, as they have dropped 10 of their last 15 games.

"It's nice, but we've got a lot of baseball left," Maddux said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.