06/11/2003 11:54 PM ET
Cubs dodge rain, O's rally
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Sammy Sosa's absence could be a bonus to David Kelton.
Kelton, called up to take injured Hee Seop Choi's spot on the roster, collected his first two Major League hits and first RBI in his first start as the Chicago Cubs held on for a 7-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday night.
Moises Alou and Damian Miller each drove in two runs to power the Cubs, playing the first game of Sammy Sosa's seven-game suspension.
"That's what you call a hold-on victory, but it's still a victory," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
For Kelton, it was an eventful night. He went 2-for-4, including an infield single in the fourth and a double in the eighth, and was nearly charged with his first big-league error. He says he should've been.
The Orioles had two runners on and two out in the Orioles sixth against starter Matt Clement when Jay Gibbons hit a fly ball to left. Kelton broke late and the ball deflected off his outstretched glove. Gibbons was credited with a double and two runs scored to make it 6-2.
Asked if he should've been charged with an error, which would take two earned runs away from Clement, Kelton agreed.
"It's tough because I knew I could've made the play," Kelton said. "It happens and I've just got to keep on going out there and keep working on it.
"I didn't realize it was hit as hard as it was, and right at the last minute it jumped up on me real quick."
"He's new to the outfield," Baker said of Kelton. "He got his first two hits in the big leagues, he showed his speed on the bases. I'm sure he felt badly about that ball out there, but it's part of the learning process."
Everyone knows the 23-year-old Kelton can hit.
"It's one of the things I've been looking for is a chance," Kelton said. "I'm just trying to get into a little groove and use every at-bat just like I did down in the minor leagues and just try to relax and stay focused and not get out of the rhythm too much."
Clement (4-6) appears to have found his groove again. The right-hander won his second consecutive start, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks over six innings. He struck out six to pick up his 50th career win, a milestone teammate Kerry Wood recorded Saturday.
"Obviously, I'm hoping for a lot more than 50 wins in my career," Clement said. "When you start playing, you don't know how long you're going to be here or even if you're going to get here. Fifty wins is great. Hopefully that's not something I sit on."
Clement has looked much sharper since taking an extra two days between starts to regroup.
"It wasn't any drastic mechanical change," Clement said. "I think it was trying to weed out some stuff because there was a lot of stuff going through my mind. When you struggle, there's always going to be opinions and everybody is going to have a quick fix. For me, it was just trusting Larry (Rothschild, pitching coach). That's why he's as good as he is at what he does."
The two simply went back to the drawing board. Clement said he found his arm slot and is trying to be more aggressive. Now, his slider is crisper. Actually, he said everything is crisper.
"I feel good, I feel strong," he said. "When you get a win under your belt, you start to build confidence. It's nice to have back to back good outings."
The Cubs will be looking for that without Sosa in the lineup. His original eight-game suspension, issued for using a corked bat, was reduced to seven games Wednesday. The Cubs superstar took batting practice, but was not allowed in any team areas during the game and returned to the hotel. Substitute right fielder Tom Goodwin went 2-for-4 with an RBI single and two stolen bases.
"We just all have to try to do a little something," Goodwin said. "Sammy's been out before."
"We've learned how to win close games," Clement said. "This team pulls together. We don't have Sammy here. In a perfect world, we'd like to have him here."
The game was delayed one hour, 44 minutes by rain before the ninth inning was completed. Joe Borowski got the last two outs in the eighth, shrugged off the wait and picked up his 12th save.
"What can you say about Joe Borowski?" Baker said. "After an hour rain delay, he said he felt fine. We were a bit apprehensive but he proved that he was fine."
Alou notched his 1,500th career hit as the Cubs won their fourth straight and now are 6-2 in Interleague Play.
In the Cubs fourth, Alou hit an RBI double and Miller hit a two-run double to make it 3-0. Kelton then collected his first Major League hit, an infield single.
"I think a lot of that was adrenaline," Kelton said of his burst of speed.
Corey Patterson hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Alou added an RBI single, his 1,500th career hit, to make it 5-0.
Kelton picked up his RBI in the sixth. With a runner at third, Kelton hit a grounder that third baseman Tony Batista booted for an error. However, Kelton was credited with driving in the run. Goodwin added an RBI single in the eighth.
"That last hit by Goodwin ended up being the one that won it for us," Baker said. "Our offense needs to come alive against these American League teams. They don't have any weaknesses in their lineups."
It's just Day 1 without Sosa. Don't expect Sosa-like numbers from Kelton. Not yet at least.
"Any chance I get, whether it's left or right or coming off the bench, it doesn't matter," Kelton said. "That's all I want is just a chance to prove myself."
Goodwin probably won't hit 60 homers in seven games either.
"Whenever you're called upon, that's what you have to do and that's all you can do," Goodwin said. "You just try to be as ready as you can be. As long as you go out there and do your best there should be no regrets at the end of the day."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.