Jason Schmidt wasn't perfect like Randy Johnson on Tuesday night, but the San Francisco Giants right-hander was almost as untouchable in throwing a one-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over the Cubs.
"It's pretty hard to believe someone could outdo Jason Schmidt tonight," losing pitcher Matt Clement said, referring to Johnson's perfect game in Atlanta.
Another sterling effort by Clement went by the boards as Schmidt (4-2) tied a career-high with 13 strikeouts. He struck out Corey Patterson and Todd Hollandsworth three times apiece.
"When he's on, he's as tough as anyone in this league," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
The anticipated Sammy Sosa-Barry Bonds duel evaporated before game time when the Cubs announced Sosa would go on the disabled list Wednesday with a sprained ligament in his lower back. Bonds walked twice and scored the game's only run in the fourth inning.
The Cubs were hitless until Michael Barrett reached on an infield single to third base with two outs in the fifth. The no-hitter was definitely on Schmidt's mind.
"Honestly, it would've been outstanding," Schmidt said. "But I'll take a shutout and a win any day."
There's something about that first game back from a road trip that seems to be troubling the Cubs' offense this season. In their four games opening a homestand, the Cubs are hitting .108 and averaging two runs per game.
Clement (5-3) allowed one run on five hits in eight innings, the fifth time in his eight starts he has allowed one or fewer runs in a game. The only blemish on his night came in the fourth inning, when Bonds walked leading off and scored on Pedro Feliz's two-out single.
Schmidt threw a shutout against the Cubs last year in San Francisco, also while facing Clement. He sliced and diced the Cubs lineup all night, even though he needed 144 pitches to do it.
"That blows me away," Clement said. "I might miss a few starts if I did that."
Sosa's back problem, the latest in a series of Cubs injuries, cast a dark shadow over the team before the game, but Baker said the good news was "it wasn't any worse" than sprained ligaments.
While the fill-ins have filled-in admirably, the plethora of injuries is alarming.
"We expect whoever we put out there to do the job," Baker said. "No crying, no nothing. Just do the best you can on a daily basis. I already got in trouble once when asked if we could win without [Mark] Prior. I said, 'What choice would we have?'
"Next thing, I read 'Dusty says you can win without Prior.' This is a prime example of what you have to do. You have no choice. You can either cry and feel sorry for yourself, or you can try to figure out a way."
Baker put second baseman Todd Walker back in the lineup Tuesday night, while hot-hitting backup Jose Macias was on the bench after going 11-for-20 as leadoff man the previous four games. Walker went 0-for-4 leading off against Schmidt.
"It's tough to keep Macias out," Baker said. "But [the media] before were wondering how I was going to get [Mark Grudzielanek] back in there for Walker. Now you're asking me how I'm going to get Walker in there for Macias?"
Why not stick Macias at short?
"I could," Baker replied, "But who's playing better shortstop than Ramon [Martinez]?"
The Cubs will have to make due without Sosa for at least two weeks, and possibly longer. With the offense having so many highs and lows in the early going, getting some consistency may be even more difficult without its No. 3 hitter.
"There's no sense in hanging your head," general manager Jim Hendry said. "You have to deal with it."