It came as advertised, this rare heavyweight Hall of Fame faceoff between 300-game winners, although for non-history buffs it got even more interesting after they left.
On a night unfit for senior citizens such as Greg Maddux (40) and Roger Clemens (43), as humid as it was hot, it was the elder who survived, although neither was around for the finish of Houston's 4-2 victory over the Cubs.
"Good for them, bad for us," Maddux said. "I didn't pitch good enough to win. I'm pitching good enough to keep us in games but not good enough to win."
Maddux is 2-11 since May 3, and if he ever faces Clemens again, it may be while wearing another uniform because trade rumors have been swirling. He hasn't said he would be against a trade, although manager Dusty Baker said Maddux is. And so is he.
"No. 1, he doesn't want to leave," Baker said. "It would hurt us and would hurt me, too, because Greg's a quality guy you like being around and guys like listening to and you enjoy him pitching and playing behind him."
Trades, however, are part of reality for a team 21 games below .500. The Astros have no intention of letting Clemens go, hoping he can help pitch them to a second straight World Series.
What did the two do to keep 40,344 Wrigley Field fans entertained?
Maddux lasted seven innings, allowing seven hits, no walks and three runs while throwing 102 pitches, his second highest total of the season.
Clemens worked six, allowing three hits, a walk and no runs while throwing 85 pitches in his 343rd career win.
Their combined 6½ innings were completed in less than two hours.
After the aces were finished, the bullpens made the game close, with the Cubs pulling within to 3-2 in the eighth inning on a home run from an unexpected source.
Pinch-hitter Phil Nevin got the rally going with a one-out walk off Chad Qualls and Juan Pierre pushed him to second. Todd Walker then smacked his fifth homer into the right-field stands.
Even with Cubs' management shopping Walker to both leagues before the July 31 trading deadline, he did not start against Clemens, despite a lifetime average of .349 average (15-for-43). Baker instead started rookie Ryan Theriot, who had only eight at-bats this season.
"Just the need to have some speed and have a real good defensive lineup behind Greg," Baker explained of his move. "Greg still needs every out he's supposed to get."
The Astros got one of those runs back in the ninth on Adam Everett's perfect suicide squeeze off Bob Howry and Brad Lidge bolted the door on the Cubs for his 22nd save.
Maddux fell to 7-11.
"It seems like whoever is pitching against him throws a heckuva game," Baker said.
That would be Clemens Wednesday night.
"[Clemens] doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but he still has pinpoint control," Baker said. "He wasn't quite as sharp in velocity [as in the past] but sharp enough to get you out."
Clemens, whose high in six starts this summer is 61/3 innings, gave the Cubs only one hit in the first four innings. He also allowed a one-out double in the fifth to Angel Pagan.
Maddux's second pitch of the night was deposited into the left-field bleachers by Craig Biggio, extending his National League record of homer runs leading off a game to 49. In the fifth, Preston Wilson's gap double scored Chris Burke from third and Aubrey Huff from first, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead.
"Greg gave us all he had," Baker said. "We just couldn't muster a real rally."
Astros 4, Cubs 2