"You look at me like I'm crazy but I'm telling the truth," Maddux said. "He does it just a little bit better, a little bit longer."
The two do have something in common besides both being right-handed. Both Maddux and Clemens are members of the exclusive 300-win club. On Friday, the two will start at Minute Maid Park in the first meeting between two 300-game winners since August 4, 1987, when California's Don Sutton faced Minnesota's Steve Carlton.
"It should be a good matchup," Houston's Roy Oswalt said. "Both of them won Cy Young Awards before and it's always good when you see stuff like that in baseball -- it makes the fans appreciate the game."
It's the second meeting between the two. They also faced off June 3, 2000, in an Interleague game when Maddux pitched for Atlanta and Clemens for the New York Yankees. The Braves won that game, but neither Maddux nor Clemens got a decision.
"We both gave it up in that one," Maddux said. "I gave up more than he did, I know that."
He's right, of course. Maddux, who probably knows the exact pitch sequence he threw to Clemens, was charged with seven runs over 5 2/3 innings, while Clemens was tagged for six runs (four earned) over five innings. Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger, who was with the Braves at the time, got the win in relief in the 11-7 decision.
Maddux is 0-for-2 in his career against Clemens, while Clemens is hitless in three at-bats, and has struck out once. Maddux (0-1, 4.50 ERA), who is winless in four starts this year, is looking forward to the matchup.
"I get a chance to hit off the best pitcher that I've played with," Maddux said. "Ever since I've been playing, he's always been the best. Any time you get a chance to get a bat and try, that's something special."
The two have won a combined 11 Cy Young Awards -- seven for Clemens, four for Maddux.
"Maddux and Rocket, they've been great over their careers," Houston's Craig Biggio said, "and Rocket's pitched great for us this year, so it will be a battle and we'll see how it goes."
|The next-closest to 300 wins:
How are Maddux and Clemens so alike?
"I think we do it the same way," Maddux said. "I think we show up every fifth day and pitch. When it's our turn to pitch and you do it long enough, stuff's going to start to add up."
Stuff like wins. Maddux enters the game with a career 305-175 record and .635 winning percentage. Clemens is 329-164, a .667 percentage.
Maddux became the 22nd pitcher in Major League history to join the 300 club last August with a win in San Francisco. The 2004 season was the first time there were two 300-game winners in the National League at the same time since 1893, when Cleveland's John Clarkson and Philadelphia's Tim Keefe were still active.
There were four 300-game winners in the National League in 1891 and 1892. The last time 300-game winners started against each other in a National League game was July 1892 when Keefe and St. Louis' Jim "Pud" Galvin faced off twice. They played in St. Louis on July 4 (St. Louis won, 9-2) and on July 21 in Philadelphia (the Phillies won, 2-0). Clarkson faced off against Keefe a couple times in 1892 -- but those were before he won his 300th game that
Sutton had a tough draw against 300-game winners. From June 28, 1986, to August 4, 1987, he had four starts against 300-game winners: two against Phil Niekro and one each against Carlton and Tom Seaver.
"As players, we're not really looking at it as a great matchup," Houston's Jeff Bagwell said of the Maddux-Clemens game. "We look at it as, what do we have to do to score some runs off Greg. As fans, it's nice. They get a chance to see two of the greatest pitchers of all time pitch so it's nice for them, but for us, Roger's on our team so it's not really a matchup between those two. It's us as hitters trying to get some runs off [Maddux]."
Kerry Wood (1-1, 5.79 ERA) will face Brandon Backe (1-1, 6.17 ERA) on Saturday, while Mark Prior (3-0, 0.95 ERA) meets Oswalt (3-2, 3.25 ERA) on Sunday.
"If you go down to Houston, you know you're going to face some good pitching," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Roger is sort of frightening, especially when I looked at the stat sheet and his ERA is 0.32 or something like that. We've got work to do."
Cubs catcher Michael Barrett will likely be a little anxious if he faces Oswalt. The two had a run-in last year in Chicago when Barrett confronted Oswalt at the plate.
"I don't know if I would've done anything differently," Barrett said in an interview this spring about the incident. "I think the only thing I would've done differently is if I was going to do anything, I probably would've gone ahead and done it. Looking back on it, if you think about what I did, I didn't really do anything. Oswalt still pitched eight innings. I still played nine innings."
Barrett expects the incident to be in the back of his mind. Oswalt's too.
"I'm going to do everything I can to put it behind me," Barrett said. "It will be tough if he ever hits me again intentionally not to react in a way like I did. Last year's incident, I took personally. I think the timing was bad because we were coming down the stretch, and he did what he did."
It should be an interesting series.