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Maddux notches career win No. 354

Maddux notches career win No. 354

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers have now won three straight games, which seems like a monumental achievement after losing the previous eight.

Except to Greg Maddux, the winning pitcher in Monday night's 5-2 victory over the Padres.

"Winning three in a row is not that big a deal," he said, after the win only allowed the Dodgers to keep pace with first-place Arizona. "We've got to do it tomorrow."

A 354-game winner is entitled to put a three-game streak in perspective. Three hundred and fifty-four wins -- now that's an achievement. In fact, this victory put Maddux in a tie with Roger Clemens for eighth on the all-time wins list. He didn't mind talking about the company he's now keeping.

"I've always respected what he's done," the four-time Cy Young winner said of Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young winner. "For me, I always thought he was the best pitcher I had a chance to play with or against. It's hard to really compare to guys before you -- TV wasn't what it is now. I was in A-ball and my roommate was his college teammate, and we had to watch his games every chance we got. He's the best, the most complete -- his pitch selection, his stuff, his showing up every time."

And with one more win, will it mean that Maddux is that much better than Clemens?

"No, it won't," he said. "It just means I played longer, pitched more times."

And he's not done yet, as his Hall of Fame career continues on with the Dodgers as the gun hired to do exactly what he did on this night.

During their eight-game tailspin, he was right there with them, losing his first two starts after being acquired. But in his first home start as a Dodger in two years, it didn't seem to hurt that he was facing the club that 13 days earlier traded him.

The Padres (53-84) seemed ready as the first three batters rapping singles for a quick run.

"I don't like to compete against friends," said Maddux. "That makes it tough for me personally."

Maddux, though, quickly got to competing. He adjusted his pitch location down a few inches and retired 17 of the next 18 hitters before back-to-back doubles in the sixth inning brought out manager Joe Torre, who went to a bullpen that allowed one single over the final 3 1/3 innings. Although Chan Ho Park was absent, attending to the birth of his child, Cory Wade put down the sixth-inning rally, Hong-Chih Kuo pitched two perfect innings and Jonathan Broxton recorded his 11th save.

Maddux finished with two runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings, four strikeouts and no walks. He's 7-11 overall this season, 1-2 as a Dodger.

The victory was the second of the day for Torre. Earlier at Saratoga Race Course in New York, the 2-year-old colt he owns in partnership with Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, Vineyard Haven, raced to victory in the $250,000 Grade I Hopeful Stakes.

Maddux had been working with a 4-1 lead, in part accomplished through aggressive baserunning that included three stolen bases. The Dodgers countered San Diego's early run by manufacturing one in the first as Andre Ethier walked, stole second, took third on catcher Nick Hundley's throwing error and scored on a single that extended James Loney's hitting streak to 12 games. The RBI gave Loney a team-high 74.

The Dodgers (68-70) scored twice in the second inning, with Maddux following Angel Berroa's RBI bloop double with an RBI single. Casey Blake homered for the second consecutive game in the third inning. The Dodgers added a run in the seventh on singles by Russell Martin and Ethier and a sacrifice fly by Manny Ramirez.

On Ethier's hit-and-run single, Martin pulled up funny going into third base, reaching with his left hand for his lower back as he hit the bag. Trainer Stan Conte and Torre came out, but Martin stayed in the game and hustled home with a hand-first dive to score on Ramirez's fly to shallow left field.

Martin, who has been struggling lately, refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong.

"Nothing happened," he said.

But he acknowledged that something has happened to his team in the past three days, even if Monday's win only kept pace with the winning Diamondbacks.

"We got some life back in us," he said. "We ran the bases hard, played good baseball. The intensity is back, that's the main thing. You go through rough patches where everybody tries to do too much. If we play like we've played the past three games, we'll be OK."

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

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