10/12/2003 1:14 AM ET
Clement puts name in win column
Joins Wood and Prior as starters with playoff wins
MIAMI -- Matt Clement limped a little on his way to the mound at points during Game 4 of the NLCS on Saturday night, but short of his leg coming detached at the hip, nothing would deter him from pitching the Cubs into a position to play in the World Series for the first time in 58 years.
Squaring off with the team that traded him to the Cubs at the end of Spring Training in 2002, Clement strutted his stuff, allowing three runs on five hits over 7 2/3 innings in the Cubs' 8-3 win. The Florida Marlins' front office staff got quite an education on what their former pitcher could do as Clement schooled their squad early and finished in fine form.
Clement may not even notice his uneven gait anymore, as he has become used to pitching through the pain. Saturday was no different, although he said the pain was not as noticable as in other recent starts.
"It felt pretty good tonight," he said. "Over the last two starts, it went from hurting while I pitched to hurting when I'm done pitching. And there's no time to worry about the groin."
His solid performance as the first Cubs starter other than Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to win a playoff game, came in a matchup against the player who was part of the Cubs' end of the 2002 deal, Dontrelle Willis. Willis gave up six runs on three hits over 2 1/3 innings.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker said getting a win from someone other than Wood or Prior was a lift for the team, but also for Clement.
"That was big by Matt," Baker said. "I knew he had a good one in him. His groin is getting better, and he's healthy. He had great command of the strike zone, and we're just glad that he went out and did what he did."
Clement got into trouble for the first time in the fifth inning, when Miguel Cabrera singled leading off and moved to second on Mike Lowell's fielder's choice grounder to first. Jeff Conine's infield single put runners on first and third with one out.
By Amy Sternig / MLB.com
Alex Gonzalez drove in Cabrera for Florida's first run of the game and Todd Hollandsworth's pinch-hit single brought in Conine for the second run of the frame.
But that would be his only jam as Clement picked up his first win of the postseason after losing his first start, 6-4, in the NLDS against the Braves in Game 4. In that outing, he threw 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on eight hits, walking four and striking out three hitters.
Saturday, he felt the rough inning was a little tougher in terms of close calls at the plate.
"There were a couple pitches that were close," he said. "(But) when you're on the mound, everything looks like a strike."
As one of the quartet of Cubs pitchers with double-digit wins in the regular season, Clement compiled a 14-12 record. And he has done it hobbling around, nursing the groin.
Clement injured it Sept. 3 against St. Louis after he was hit in the calf and later changed the way he ran the bases because he was favoring the leg. After the injury, Clement went 2-1 over five starts with a 4.45 ERA.
Clement's most crucial win of the season before Saturday's Game 5 came when he got the 7-2 win in the National League Central Division-clinching game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 27, throwing 7 2/3 innings.
Other than the Sept. 27 outing and Saturday's, Clement had gone deep in only one game since Aug. 29, when he threw a complete game against Milwaukee. His shortest outing was Sept. 20, when he lasted three-plus innings, allowing six runs on six hits.
The 29-year-old right-hander is showing no ill effects from the injury this time and will have plenty of time to rest it should the Cubs advance to the World Series. Clement would not be scheduled to pitch for at least nine days, in either Game 3 or 4 of the set.
If he shows up with the stuff he brought Saturday, the Cubs should be in a strong position to make a run at their first World Series title in 95 years.
"That's the most relaxed I've been for a start in a long time, not just because it's the playoffs, but in any start," Clement said. "I just went up there and tried to do my job and not get caught up in what was going on."
That's the attitude that will serve him and the Cubs well if Chicago advances to the final round.
Amy Sternig is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.