"The bullpen is better than not pitching," Maddux said after the Dodgers beat the Giants, 2-1, on Saturday, giving Maddux his 355th career victory and moving past Roger Clemens for eighth on the all-time wins list.
Manager Joe Torre announced earlier Saturday that Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley (who pitched two scoreless innings of relief) and Hiroki Kuroda would start the first three games of the playoffs. He didn't go beyond that or say what Maddux's role would be, but hinted at relief, which Maddux has done twice in the postseason.
"You get to the postseason, I think Greg is certainly not an ego guy," said Torre. "When you use [a starter] in the bullpen, I haven't been around anyone here who has a problem. In the postseason, everybody is on board. We know he's capable. Experience is important."
Maddux pointed out that he's done it before. Twice, in fact -- in the 1998 National League Championship Series for Atlanta against San Diego, and the 1999 NLDS for Atlanta against Houston. Not only that, he recorded a one-inning save in 1998, which gives him more postseason saves than either Jonathan Broxton or Takashi Saito and as many as Lowe.
Torre did say he'll have an 11-man pitching staff and it almost surely won't include Hong-Chih Kuo, whose scheduled appearance Saturday night was scrapped when, according to Torre, Kuo "couldn't get a feel for the ball" warming up in the bullpen during the seventh inning and was quickly shut down. He will have his left elbow examined Sunday, but Torre described him as "doubtful."
The disappointing news on Kuo was offset by Saito's first save since July 9 and 18th on the season. Saito came into the game with a 5.79 ERA since returning from two months on the sidelines with a partially torn elbow ligament. He had a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout to lock down the win for Maddux.
"It was nice to see him have that kind of inning," Torre said. "The more he does that, the more comfortable he'll get, and his comfort is good for us when he knows he can do this and he can do that."
Torre said he had the confidence to use Saito in save situations, but cautioned that the last time he used Saito on back-to-back days, his elbow tightened. Torre did not say that Saito had regained his closer job from Broxton.
Saito said he was not worried about his elbow "at all" and was ready to pitch on consecutive days.
"It's hard to say I felt 100 percent all the time, even before the injury to my elbow," Saito said. "My job is to adjust any way I can so I can pitch the best that I can that day."
The game included another start at shortstop for Rafael Furcal and a start at first base for Jeff Kent. The offense, however, was provided by Blake DeWitt, who slugged a solo homer in the third inning and gave the Dodgers the lead for good with a go-ahead RBI single in the seventh.
It was during that inning Maddux was lifted for a pinch-hitter, having thrown only 47 pitches in a masterfully efficient six innings.
"Tonight's game you could say was vintage," said Torre. "He changed speeds so well. He can read the body language of an opposing hitter better than anyone I've ever seen."
He allowed only two hits, one of them Randy Winn's home run leading off the fourth inning.
"I'm just glad to have a good game. I haven't had many since I got here," said Maddux, winning for only the second time in his seventh start since rejoining the Dodgers last month.
"Last time, they didn't hit anything at anybody and tonight they hit everything at everybody," Maddux said. "That's the game. Sometimes, you're not as bad as you look and sometimes you're not as good as you look."
Now 42 years old, Maddux said he realizes this might have been the final regular-season start of his career. But with the postseason approaching, he'll worry about that later.
"When the season's over, I'll go home and decide," Maddux said. "I'm looking forward to next month. I'm locked into this year and what I can do to help."
The game also included a bench-clearing standoff after Giants reliever Billy Sadler celebrated striking out Casey Blake with a fist-pump and shout to escape an eighth-inning jam. Blake stared at Sadler, Matt Kemp said something as he walked past Sadler on his way from third base to the Dodgers dugout, and Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti sprinted out of the Giants dugout to keep Kemp and Sadler apart.
No contact was made and no one was ejected.
"It was just uncalled for," Kemp said of Sadler's enthusiasm.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less