CLEVELAND—When asked the difference between the Greg Maddux who went 5-0 in April and the Maddux who's 2-7 since, the veteran pitcher held his thumb and index finger a couple of inches apart.
"I'm just not locating as often and not getting away with as many mistakes," Maddux said. "There's not a whole lot of difference though, really. It's a very fine line."
Maddux pitched into the eighth inning and threw a season-high 107 pitches in Tuesday's 4-2 loss to Cleveland, but he couldn't prevent the Cubs from suffering their seventh loss in eight games.
For the third time in his last four starts, Maddux (7-7) experienced problems early before settling down. He gave up three runs on four hits in the first, including Ronnie Belliard's two-out, RBI double that put the Cubs in an early hole.
"I pretty much lost it for us in the first inning," Maddux said. "It just took me too long to settle in."
Maddux allowed three second-inning runs in a 5-4 loss to Houston on June 14, and three first-inning runs in a 9-6 loss to St. Louis on June 4.
The Cubs scored in the second off Indians left-hander Cliff Lee (6-5) when Matt Murton walked, stole second and came around on Jacque Jones' single and Belliard's two errors at second. Maddux retired 11 men in a row from the end of the first into the fifth, before Grady Sizemore homered on an 0-2 pitch to make it 4-1.
The Cubs blew a scoring opportunity in the fifth when third-base coach Chris Speier sent Jones home from first on Henry Blanco's double into the left-field corner. Third baseman Ramon Vazquez nailed Jones at the plate on the relay after Todd Hollandsworth overthrew the cutoff man. Instead of having two men in scoring position with one out, the Cubs had a man on second and two outs. Juan Pierre promptly popped out, ending the inning.
"When he missed the cutoff man, I thought [Jones] was in there," manager Dusty Baker said. "I'm surprised he even threw the ball. I have no problem [with Speier's decision]. When you're not scoring a lot of runs, you have to take some chances."
Aramis Ramirez homered in the sixth to cut the Indians' lead to 4-2, but the Cubs couldn't mount a threat thereafter. Lee was pulled after walking Phil Nevin with two outs in the eighth, but reliever Fausto Carmona fanned Murton, who is in a 1-for-18 slump.
"The ball wasn't carrying," Baker said. "We hit some balls I thought were at least off the wall, but the ball wasn't carrying nearly as much as [Monday] night, to their benefit."