The two Cubs starters bear absolutely no physical resemblance to each other, but Sergio Mitre's impersonation of a young Greg Maddux is getting more impressive with every outing.
The 24-year-old right-hander tossed his first career shutout Tuesday in the Cubs' 14-0 shellacking of Florida that snapped their two-game losing streak before a stunned crowd of 38,887.
horses, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, remain on the disabled list, young Mitre suddenly has exploded into prominence with 16 consecutive shutout innings.
"The horses are the horses," manager Dusty Baker said. "He's not a horse yet. He's a little pony trying to be a horse."
Mitre (2-1) allowed fives hits while striking out three and walking none in a brilliant 98-pitch outing. After getting so many opportunities over the last three seasons and not sticking, Mitre's confidence appears sky-high.
"I feel better," he said. "It helps a lot just to know I can go out there and get the job done. But it's back to square one. Keep working."
The Cubs pounded out four home runs, posted a pair of five-run innings and had 18 hits against Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett (7-5) and four relievers. Aramis Ramirez homered twice and drove in four runs, Michael Barrett homered and drove in four and Derrek Lee went 4-for-5 with his 18th homer, two doubles and three RBIs. Lee hiked his major-league leading average to a sizzling .386.
Once again, Lee is leading the National League in all Triple Crown categories. He came into Tuesday ranked first in average and home runs, and moved into a first-place tie in RBIs (56) with Milwaukee's Carlos Lee.
"The wind was blowing out, so if you got it in the air, you had a good chance," Lee said. "It was definitely a great hitting day, and that just shows how well Sergio pitched. It was a good day to be a sinkerballer."
The Cubs evened their record at 4-4 on the nine-game homestand heading into Wednesday's intriguing matchup between Maddux and A.J. Burnett.
Mitre threw first-pitch strikes consistently and kept the ball low and away, recording 18 ground ball outs. The only balls off him that left the infield through the first six innings were singles by Alex Gonzalez in the third and Carlos Delgado in the fourth.
"That was one of the better games I've seen pitched in a long time," Baker said.
When Damion Easley popped to right with one out in the seventh, it was the first time in 13 innings over two starts that a batter hit a fly ball to an outfielder off Mitre.
The terminally serious Mitre didn't bother to smile afterwards, taking his first shutout in stride.
"It's pretty exciting," Mitre said in his patented monotone delivery. "It's over now, so let's move on to tomorrow."
Beckett, coming off the worst start of his career in a loss to Seattle, lasted only 51/3 innings before leaving with a blister on the middle finger of his right hand. The Cubs had a 4-0 lead at that point.
Leading 1-0 in the fourth, Ramirez's two-run shot off Beckett officially started the party.
After Lee led off the sixth with a line-drive home run on a 3-0 pitch, Beckett threw an 0-1 pitch at the knees of Jeromy Burnitz. The apparent purpose pitch prompted a warning from plate umpire Bruce Froemming, but Beckett decided he was done and left the game with the blister problem.
Burnitz followed with a gift double that dropped in front of left-fielder Miguel Cabrera before Ramirez smacked his second home run of the night and 14th of the season. The Cubs wound up with a five-run inning, then cruised to the finish.
Baker had the rare luxury of sitting back and watching his players perform at near-peak level.
"It was a great feeling for me," he said, "Because I didn't have to do nothing."
Cubs 14, Marlins 0