Cubs dispatch Mets for sixth straight win

CHICAGO (AP) -- Matt Clement often gets overlooked in the Chicago
Cubs' dazzling rotation.

He doesn't have a blazing fastball like Mark Prior or Kerry
Wood, or the pinpoint control of Greg Maddux. And Clement certainly
doesn't display fiery emotions the way Carlos Zambrano does.

But make no mistake, Clement is every bit as nasty as his
better-known teammates. He took a no-hit bid into the seventh
inning and struck out a career-high 13 Sunday, leading the Cubs to
a 4-1 victory over the New York Mets.

"I don't pitch for appreciation," Clement said. "I'm out
there pitching for myself, my family and my team. Getting
appreciation will come if we win as a team."

And he and his teammates are doing their part, winning six
straight. Starters have earned all six wins, and Chicago has
outscored its opponents 39-5 during the streak.

Clement (3-1) gave up two hits in eight innings, including a
solo homer to Karim Garcia with one out in the seventh that broke
up the no-hit bid.

Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer, and Michael Barrett and
Corey Patterson each drove in a run to back Clement.

"I guess it's pretty hard to throw a no-hitter ... but that's
not the important thing," Clement said. "We're trying to keep a
winning streak here, not throw no-hitters. We're trying to build on

Cubs manager Dusty Baker considered pulling Clement after he
retired his first batter in the eighth inning. Clement has asthma,
and Baker saw that he was wheezing. But Clement insisted he was

Two batters later, he fanned Kaz Matsui for his 13th strikeout.
Joe Borowski then pitched the ninth for his fourth save in four

The Mets have lost eight of 10 and look like a team from the
dead-ball era, scoring just 13 runs in their last nine games.

Al Leiter (1-1) came in having given up one run in three starts.
But the Cubs tagged him for three runs and seven hits in five
innings, and he was lifted for pinch-hitter Danny Garcia in the

"Normally, I'd let him go back out there. But we had a
no-hitter going," Mets manager Art Howe said. "We had to try to
get some offense going."

But even with the wind gusting out, the Mets weren't doing
anything against Clement. He retired his first six batters -- the
last four on swinging strikeouts -- before walking Todd Zeile to
start the third. After Ricky Gutierrez reached on a fielder's
choice, Clement retired his next 10 hitters, striking out the side
in the fifth inning.

"What he did today is what he's capable of doing in every
start," Barrett said. "That's just how good his stuff is."

Barrett said he knew from the first batter that Clement was
going to have a good day, and fans seemed to know it, too. From the
third inning on, the crowd of 38,635 was cheering his every pitch.

"It was pretty cool out there," Clement said. "These fans are
passionate. If the score is 6-5, they would have been doing the
same thing. You've got to love the support they give you and give
to this team and what they mean to this team."

But the Mets spoiled the fun in the seventh. Mike Piazza led off
the inning, and he worked Clement hard. He hit a grounder down the
third-base line that would have been a hit, but it went foul near
the bag.

Finally, on the eighth pitch, Piazza went down swinging. It was
Clement's 12th strikeout, matching his previous career high.

"When you get to that point in the game, you don't want to let
Piazza break it up," Clement said. "Not that I was sitting there
worrying about who was going to break it up or what was going to
happen. But I probably put a little more energy than I needed to
into the Piazza at-bat."

And Garcia took advantage of it. He'd struck out and popped up
in his first two at-bats, and was shaken up when he hit the padded
brick wall chasing Alex Gonzalez's fly in the fourth.

But Garcia sent Clement's 1-0 pitch over the center-field wall
and into the shrubbery.

"It was supposed to be a four-seamer," Clement said. "It came
back a little over the plate and he did what you're supposed to do
with a pitch that comes back over the plate: He crushed it."

Fans groaned, then gave Clement a warm ovation as Garcia circled
the bases.

"You never want to get no-hit," Garcia said. "The homer
didn't really mean anything to us because we ended up losing."

Eric Valent added a single off Clement, but the right-hander
ended the inning with Todd Zeile's groundout. As he walked back to
the dugout, fans gave Clement a standing ovation, with many raising
their arms and bowing.

"We wanted him to get that no-hitter to add to the excitement
that's already here," Baker said. "But he got eight innings, a
couple hits and one run. It doesn't get much better than that."

Game notes
The last time Cubs starters won six straight was June 1-7,
1983. ... The last Cubs pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Milt
Pappas against San Diego on Sept. 2, 1972. ... Mets OF Shane
Spencer didn't start because of a tight hamstring, but he pinch-hit
in the eighth inning.