It takes a lot of the unusual to beat the Cincinnati Reds these days.
Maddux beat baseball's hottest team for the third time this season, and Dempster survived a scare while closing out the Chicago Cubs' 6-5 victory Friday night, ending the Reds' eight-game winning streak.
"Ain't never easy," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Dang, it was a tough one. We needed this one badly. We were due to win one of these."
The Cubs emerged from a three-game losing streak with Henry Blanco's three RBI and a short but solid performance by Maddux (7-5), who has beaten the Reds three times this season. He gave up four hits, including solo homers by Adam Dunn and Scott Hatteberg, in 5 1/3 innings.
Maddux's 325th career win broke a tie with Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton for 13th on the career list. Eddie Plank is next on the list, one victory ahead.
Maddux took a grounder off his lower right leg in the third, and Baker didn't hesitate to go to his bullpen early when the Reds threatened in the sixth. He lifted Maddux after only 66 pitches.
"I didn't like the way he was throwing in that one inning," Baker said. "He was getting everything up."
Maddux didn't second-guess the decision.
"That's just trying to win," Maddux said. "Our bullpen's done a great job all year. I didn't see a problem with it."
The problems came when Dempster got into the game in the ninth with a 6-4 lead. Dempster, who had blown three of his last five save chances, loaded the bases with no outs, then walked Ryan Freel to force in a run.
"Early on, I wasn't fully committed. I don't know why," Dempster said. "I just wasn't there. It took me walking in a run to finally calm down and get it done. It was definitely exciting. My heart's still going."
Dempster struck out Felipe Lopez, got Brandon Phillips to line out, then retired Ken Griffey Jr. on a routine grounder to end it for his 10th save in 13 chances. He threw 35 pitches in that one dramatic one inning.
The Reds were stunned after their first loss in June.
"We knew we were going to win, but things happen," Phillips said. "When Freel got on base, I said, 'It's over."'
The Reds got back into the NL Central race with their longest winning streak since 1999. On Friday, they drew their first capacity crowd since an opening-day loss to the Cubs.
The 41,064 fans cheered loudly for Griffey, back in the lineup after missing two games with a sore thigh. The All-Century outfielder was a .417 career hitter off the four-time Cy Young winner, but grounded out and flied out in their two head-to-head matchups.
Blanco had a two-run double and a sacrifice fly off Elizardo Ramirez (2-5), driving in one run more than the Cubs had managed in their last three games combined. Blanco, one of the NL's top defensive catchers, also threw out Lopez as he tried to steal second base in the sixth inning, undercutting a rally.
Maddux is having a season of extremes. He opened 5-0 for the first time in his career, winning all of his April starts and turning 40 years old along the way.
Once the calendar turned, so did his fortunes. Maddux went into a 1-5 slump -- the only victory was over Cincinnati -- with a 7.75 ERA in his next seven starts. He was back in form on Friday, which started with more bad news for the Cubs.
Right-hander Kerry Wood went back on the 15-day disabled list before the game with stiffness in his shoulder. He rejoined right-hander Mark Prior, who has been on the DL all season.
With their two most accomplished pitchers sidelined and leading hitter Derrek Lee out with two broken bones above his right wrist, the Cubs have foundered.
- The Cubs called up RHP Angel Guzman from Triple-A Iowa to replace Wood. RHP Carlos Marmol is expected to start in Wood's place on Sunday against the Reds.
- The Reds put 3B Edwin Encarnacion on the 15-day DL with a sprained ankle and called up INF Ray Olmedo from Triple-A Louisville.
- Reds RF Austin Kearns strained his left hamstring in the top of the seventh inning while chasing Aramis Ramirez's two-run double, which he lost in the lights. Kearns left the game in the bottom of the inning.
- Cubs reliever Bob Howry singled in the eighth for his first career hit.