July 22, 1997: Greg Maddux pitches the most Maddux game ever

Braves pitchers Mike Cather (from left), Alan Embree and John Smoltz (right), congratulate Greg Maddux (center) after he threw a five hitter Tuesday, July 22, 1997, against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago. The Braves defeated the Cubs 4-1 in the first game of a doubleheader. (Michael S. Green/AP)
Caption
Braves pitchers Mike Cather (from left), Alan Embree and John Smoltz (right), congratulate Greg Maddux (center) after he threw a five hitter Tuesday, July 22, 1997, against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago. The Braves defeated the Cubs 4-1 in the first game of a doubleheader. (Michael S. Green/AP)

Credit: AP

In Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader in Chicago against his old team the Cubs on July 22, 1997, Greg Maddux pitched the most economical complete game in the majors in nearly seven years

Even by Maddux’s standards, the numbers were strange.

In his fifth complete game, Maddux’s 78 total pitches were the fewest in a nine-inning game since Bob Tewksbury’s 76-pitch performance for St. Louis against Cincinnati on Aug. 29, 1990.

Of Maddux’s 78 pitches, just 15 were balls. Factored in over the 31 batters he faced, on average almost half of them never took a pitch out of the strike zone. The average at-bat lasted 2.52 pitches.

“The wind’s blowing in, you know?” said Maddux, who improved to 6-0 against his old team, at the time. “The wind blows in, you can’t walk guys. You’re not real worried about giving up the home run.”

Maddux allowed four hits but never two in an inning, stranding two runners at second. That second runner, Mark Grace, doubled with two outs in the ninth, bringing Sammy Sosa to the plate. Sosa lasted one pitch before sending a game-ending ground-out to second.

Maddux improved to 14-3 in 21 starts (a better win pace than any of his previous Cy Young seasons).

He would finish the year 19-4 with a 2.20 ERA in 33 starts. Maddux ended second in the Cy Young voting behind Pedro Martinez, who had 13 complete games and a 17-8 record with a 1.90 ERA in 31 starts for the Montreal Expos.

— Compiled from game information published July 23, 1997, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.