CHICAGO -- Greg Maddux said he was "embarrassed." The Chicago Cubs ended the regular season Sunday with a 10-8 win over Atlanta, but it wasn't enough.
"It just didn't feel right walking on the field today," Maddux said Sunday. "It really should've mattered and it didn't.
"I can't speak for everybody," he said. "I know I'm embarrassed. That's me."
Moises Alou hit his career-high 39th home run and rookie Jason Dubois drove in four runs, including two on his first Major League homer, to back Maddux and lift the Cubs to victory over the Braves in the regular-season finale.
"I didn't want to end on a bad streak like we were going on," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "There's a bad taste in your mouth already in the wintertime -- this makes it a little easier.
"Our guys didn't have anything to play for but they played to win and that's what you want to do," Baker said.
Greg Maddux / P
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Maddux (16-11) won his 305th career game, giving up six runs on seven hits over six innings. He struck out four. LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his 25th save.
This was the first time Maddux had faced the Braves since July 10, 1992, which was his last season with the Cubs. The right-hander then signed with Atlanta, and pitched 12 successful seasons there before rejoining the Cubs this year.
"When I stepped out here in April, all the choices you make in the offseason you realize you made the right one," Maddux said. "For me personally, it was one of the best things I could've done.
"It's a great city, it's a great town, great fans," he said. "I think that's why you feel so bad. You don't really feel like you let yourself down as much as the people around you. It's a privilege to play here. This place makes baseball special. It's a special game to begin with. To come and have the opportunity to play here half your games, it's a luxury."
The Cubs did finish with one more win than last season when they won the NL Central Division, ending the year 89-73. It's the first time Chicago has posted consecutive winning seasons since 1971-72. But it's also the first time Maddux will be headed home instead of the playoffs since '92, not counting the strike year in 1994.
What are the Cubs lacking?
"Nothing," Maddux said. "Nothing except a few extra wins. This team was just as good as all the teams I've been on in the past in Atlanta with the exception that we didn't win as many games. That might sound stupid to say but that's the way it is. This team was legit. We needed a shortstop and [Cubs general manager Jim Hendry] got the best one in baseball [in Nomar Garciaparra].
"I thought Dusty hung in there through all the injuries and kept us all together. The last two weeks it just didn't work out for us."
The Cubs led the Wild Card race on Sept. 25, and lost seven of their next eight games to fall out of contention. Central Division rival Houston rallied to win the Wild Card berth and will play the Braves in next week's Division Series.
"We're disappointed for the city and ourselves. We'll be back. We'll be back even better next year, better than anybody is going to expect."
-- Dusty Baker
"You just feel like it was ours to take and we didn't take it," Maddux said. "You look back, five, six, seven days ago when we go to New York, we're in the driver's seat. It didn't work out for us."
"It's always sweet when you win. It's bitter to go home in October," Baker said. "It's going to be a little weird for me. It's the first year I haven't gone to the playoffs in a long time. We've got to start a new streak next year.
"We're disappointed, too. Everybody's disappointed," Baker said. "We're disappointed for the city and ourselves. We'll be back. We'll be back even better next year, better than anybody is going to expect."
The Cubs set another milestone, which is a credit to their devoted fans. The Cubs drew 38,420 on Sunday at Wrigley Field, which raised the home and road total attendance to 6,064,021, the first time in franchise history the team has passed the six million mark.
This year was the first the Cubs topped three million in home attendance, finishing with 3,170,172 in 81 home dates. They showed their support Sunday and looked ahead. One sign said, "Be there for the drive in 2005."
"I think I speak for everybody in that we appreciate the support we had this year," Maddux said. "We gave it our best and came up short. Talking to the guys, I know they're excited about coming back next year."
Paul Byrd (8-7) took the loss. The Braves used this game to rest their regulars before beginning the National League Division Series next week. Byrd gave up nine runs on nine hits over four innings.
The Cubs opened a 5-0 lead in the first. Alou hit a two-run homer to finish the season with a career-high 39. His previous best was 38 set in 1998. Garciaparra singled, Derrek Lee walked and both scored on Dubois' triple to make it 5-0.
Charles Thomas hit the first of two home runs in the Atlanta second, a three-run shot, and Julio Franco added an RBI single in the third to close to 5-4.
Jason Dubois / LF
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Dubois gave the Cubs a 7-4 lead with his home run with two outs in the third off the first pitch from Byrd. Mark Grudzielanek belted his sixth home run with two outs in the fourth, Alou then singled and Aramis Ramirez followed with an RBI double to go ahead 9-4.
"The last week's been kind of a struggle," Dubois said. "To get out there and get a chance to play felt great. Getting those two hits meant a lot."
Thomas hit his second homer, a two-run blast, in the Atlanta sixth. It was the 35th off Maddux this year, which is a single-season high. But Garciaparra's RBI single with two outs in the Chicago sixth made it 10-6.
"It's neat to go out there and face a guy who you rooted for and admired for so many years," Thomas said. "It felt great to do well. But we took the 'L', so it doesn't matter."
The Cubs suffered too many losses this week to celebrate the win. The season is over.
"I'm never glad to get the season over," Baker said. "You're only glad to get the season over when you're the champion."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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