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After getting shelled Tuesday night at Houston in his worst outing of the year, Matt Clement was determined to make amends Sunday at Bank One Ballpark.
"I was pretty upset with myself after that game in Houston," Clement said. "To come out here and have a quality start, win or lose, the key was to get out there and give the team innings, because we need them right now."
Clement came through in his most important start to date, shutting down Arizona for seven innings in a 5-3 victory. Clement (11-11) allowed two runs on five hits while striking out nine.
"We didn't play a pretty game, but we won," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Our guys kept fighting, and Matt Clement threw a tremendous game."
With Houston and St. Louis both winning, the Cubs head into a three-game series with the Cardinals trailing the Central Division co-leaders by a half-game.
Sunday's game got jittery at the end when closer Joe Borowski walked in a run in the ninth and needed 37 pitches to get out of the inning, eventually striking out Junior Spivey and Steve Finley with the bases loaded for his 23rd save.
"You want to win series, and we won the first game and didn't show up for [Saturday's] game," Borowski said. "For Matty to step up and throw a fabulous game, that's big going into St. Louis. Right now pretty much anything [can] happen."
Randall Simon and Kenny Lofton each had two RBI singles as the Cubs reached their 67-win total of 2002 with 33 games left. They managed to survive despite stranding 15 runners to the Diamondbacks' 12.
Statistically speaking, August has been the Cubs' worst month in four offensive categories. They entered Sunday's game with a .236 average in August, averaging 3.6 runs per game with a .302 on-base percentage and a .381 slugging percentage.
But they've managed to stay in the race because of the pitching staff's 3.52 earned-run average, the lowest of any month since April (3.39).
The Cubs couldn't score in the second inning despite loading the bases with no outs, and they managed only one run in the third despite Simon's blast over the head of right fielder Raul Mondesi with two men on.
Moises Alou was confused as to whether Mondesi had caught the ball and had to be waved to third by Simon as he rounded first.
"I don't think Mo could see it," Baker said. "We thought [Mondesi] caught it, and it looked like he did."
Alou and Simon were stranded, but Simon's RBI single off Stephen Randolph (7-1) gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the fifth, and Lofton added a run-scoring single in the sixth.
The Diamondbacks' failure to turn a routine double play on Damian Miller's grounder in the seventh scored Simon, and Lofton drove in Miller to make it 5-1.
Simon went 3-for-5 and is 9-for-23 (.391) with six RBIs since joining the Cubs.
"It's a beautiful thing to know Dusty and [GM Jim Hendry] believe in me," Simon said. "You can see I'm enjoying myself."