Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Game Notes 18: How Sweep It Is
Other than Kerry Wood, there is no Cub pitcher I enjoy watching when they've got their "A" game going more than Matt Clement. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing Prior dominate while seeming to expend the level of effort I put into brushing my teeth with a Sonicare, and it's great fun to witness Big Z howling at the heavens while doing untold damage to the real estate market for infield-dwelling moles. Still, if he's on, give me Matty C.
It's that slider. I'm a sucker for it. If the Marquis de Sade was a moundsman, it would have been his signature pitch; cruel and obscene with a propensity for biting. Imagine it now: the Marquis all fopped out, whipping hitters with this ball he's named "the scourge," giggling gleefully as his helpless victims flail away at a pitch so nasty that it nips ankles on the way down. Now imagine Matt Clement in a Louis XIV wig and lacey, ruffled collar. Now go take a shower. Rinse. Repeat.
Clement doesn't have that stuff every time out, but he had it today and that little French derelict would have been proud, as Matt took a no-no to the seventh, finally losing it and the shutout on a home run by Karim Garcia. Matt was the master, and the Mets his willing slaves, striking out 13 times while only reaching base on 4 occasions, twice by hit and twice by walk.
If anyone still has anxiety about Clement due to his slow spring start, take your meds and relax. Sure, he's going to have rough outings from time to time, and he'll likely exhibit at least some of the maddening inconsistency that has dogged him throughout his career, but he's no longer a source of concern, and ought to be a source of pride. I'm not going to start advocating re-signing him at year's end - not with Angel Guzman waiting in the wings - but if none of the Cubs' young farmhands is ready to go in 2005, you have to give it some thought. He's earned at least that much.
The Cubs have matched their longest win streak from last year, and as an extra weird bonus, have also matched their 2003 record after eighteen games. One of the odd issues with last year's club was their inability to put together prolonged strings of success. There was plenty of blame to go around for that flaw, but most could be attributed to the continuing presence of Shawn Estes in the rotation, and the team's season long issues with scoring runs.
Offensively, the club looks to be significantly better, and Estes has been banished to the pitching wasteland of Colorado, where he has assumed the identity of Bizarro Shawn, going 3-1 with a 3.70 ERA, made up almost entirely of one bad start at Busch Stadium (he has given up only 3 runs in his other 20 innings pitched). It would be sweet as your best girl's kisses to extend this streak at the expense of the Big Unit tomorrow night. And you know what? I'm just dumb enough to think they can.