After Dusty Baker put the onus on Cubs fans to try to be a little more positive, Matt Clement gave them a performance to cheer.
Clement not only threw a two-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory over San Francisco before a crowd of 40,221 Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, he even received a standing ovation after striking out in the eighth inning.
"To have a faithful [following] that knows we're in the hunt and cares so much " Clement said. "But I think the majority of them would be here even if we weren't in the hunt, and that's what's so special about Cubs fans."
The Cubs have won three of their last four games, closing to 3½ games of first-place Houston.
San Francisco had won 10 of its previous 11 games and was facing a pitcher who carried a career 6.98 earned-run average against them. But Clement (8-9) received some early run support and cruised through the tough-hitting Giants lineup, holding Barry Bonds hitless in three at-bats and giving the Cubs an adrenaline boost in the first game of a crucial homestand.
"Every [starter] out there is capable of winning," Baker said. "When they start pitching like he did tonight, hopefully, [Kerry Wood] feeds off that [Wednesday] and then [Carlos] Zambrano, and then, hopefully, we get on this run."
In three of his previous five starts, Clement pitched six or more innings without the benefit of a single run being scored on his behalf, including his last two losses to Florida and Philadelphia. But Moises Alou's three-run homer on an 0-2 pitch from Damian Moss in the first inning was all Clement needed.
The Giants didn't get their first hit until Marquis Grissom legged out an infield single with two outs in the fourth. After hitting Andres Galarraga with a pitch to start the fifth, Clement struck out the side on nine pitches, then began the sixth by striking out Ray Durham on three pitches.
"I never dreamed that's what would happen," Clement said.
After an Aramis Ramirez error and a bloop single by Galarraga put runners on the corners with one out in the seventh, Clement struck out Jose Cruz Jr. and induced Edgardo Alfonzo to ground into an inning-ending fielders' choice.
Sunday in Houston, Baker spoke about the "negativity" the players hear during home games, implying it had something to do with their 24-27 record at Wrigley Field. He explained before Tuesday's game that he was trying only to stress the power of positive thinking and bring some good karma to his players.
"I know they made a big deal out of what I said, but I'm just trying to get everybody thinking on a positive note for us," Baker said. "We have tremendous support in body and numbers. We just need some support in attitude and positive thinking so things can go well for us here at home. If we're going to win, we have to win at home, and we really, really need the 10th player."
Alou agreed with Baker's assessment.
"Every time we go to St. Louis, that crowd really got into it," Alou said. "When somebody makes an error, they still cheer. Hopefully our crowd can do that and we can play the way we're capable of playing, and maybe we can get them used to watching good baseball and they'll cheer us on the good and the bad too."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun