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Clement set for Game 4 start
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10/03/2003  7:17 PM ET 
Clement set for Game 4 start
Cubs right-hander could be pitching another clincher
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Matt Clement says his approach to Game 4 will be the same even no matter what happens to the Cubs in Game 3. (Matt York/AP)
Ortiz Game 4 starter

CHICAGO -- Matt Clement knows all about decisive games.

The right-hander was the winning pitcher in the Chicago Cubs' Central Division clinching game Sept. 27 over Pittsburgh, the second game of a doubleheader. In that outing, he gave up two runs -- one earned -- on seven hits over 7 2/3 innings.

It could be deja vu all over again for Clement on Saturday when he starts Game 4 of the NL Division Series. The Cubs have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series after Friday's 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves. A win Saturday, and the Cubs will advance to the NL Championship Series.

Clement will be opposed by Atlanta's game 1 starter, Russ Ortiz.

"I think (Clement) clinching at home will help," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Don't expect the Braves to pack their bats and go home.

"These guys are too good to keep quiet offensively," Cubs catcher Damian Miller said.

Clement, who was 14-12 with a 4.11 ERA during the regular season, didn't think what happened Friday would affect his approach on Saturday.

"All the games are going to have the same amount of stress on them regardless of whether you're going for a fourth game or a third game," he said Friday. "These are big games -- period -- for me. I'm not going to go about it any differently."

Clement posted a career high in wins this year with the Cubs, totaled 200 innings for the second consecutive season, and, most recently, has been pitching on guts and guile. He aggravated a sore groin earlier in September, yet finished the month 2-1 with a 4.45 ERA in five starts. On Friday, Clement said the rest has helped and although he's not 100 percent, he's better.

He did face Atlanta July 12 and beat the Braves, serving up two earned runs over eight innings and striking out seven.

"I think all of us respect their lineup," Clement said. "You're looking at a lineup that's pretty powerful and strong. When you have Vinny Castilla batting eighth, you know you're in for a battle from No. 1 through 9.

"We've faced each other a lot before," he said of the Braves. "If I did have something I learned, I wouldn't say what it is."

In an interview earlier this season, Clement was asked his favorite part about being a Major League pitcher.

"The favorite thing is the whole experience," he said. "If you sit back and humble yourself to realize where you came from and myself especially because I didn't pitch in high school and I got drafted as a project.

"The big leagues weren't even in my eyesight," he said. "I got drafted and I knew I was staying in extended spring and rookie ball and all that stuff. Until I got to Double-A and a couple people started writing that I might be called up -- obviously I got drafted thinking I wanted to get there and I signed and thought I could get there.

"But being a big league pitcher and knowing you're one of the best in the world and coming every day to the ballpark with the greatest athletes in the world and getting to compete against them, I think that's the best part."

The humble Clement just wasn't sure he'd get there. A third-round pick in 1993 by San Diego, he didn't live up to the hype early and was traded to Florida in 2001. The Cubs acquired the right-hander the last week of Spring Training 2002 along with closer Antonio Alfonseca for Julian Tavarez, Jose Cueto, Ryan Jorgensen and Dontrelle Willis. Yes, that Dontrelle Willis.

Expect to see plenty of goatees in the crowd Saturday. Clement's facial hair has earned him the nicknames "Abe" and "Lincoln" although some of his teammates dubbed him the "Quaker" because of his Pennsylvannia roots.

The goatee was a gimmick last year. He grew it back this year, but denies that it's a good luck token. If Clement does have a strength, besides his deceptive fastball, it's his low key approach. He was eager for Friday's game between Mark Prior and Atlanta's Greg Maddux, more so than his own start.

"We've got our best and they've got their best," Clement said. "I'm kind of excited to watch this game tonight. Hopefully, we'll come out on the topside and we'll be going for a clinch (Saturday). You obviously want to be in that game when you can clinch it. Hopefully, that's how it works out."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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