Grammatically or literally, it may not be possible for two guys to win the same game single-handedly.

But that's the way tough-luck loser Matt Clement viewed the Cubs' 2-1 loss Saturday to the Colorado Rockies.

"Basically we were beaten single-handedly by Denny Neagle and Jay Payton," Clement said. "That's the way it looked to me."

And who in the Wrigley Field capacity crowd of 39,385 was going to argue?

Veteran left-hander Neagle required just 67 pitches, all but 20 of them strikes, to break his personal four-game losing streak.

Neagle limited the Cubs to two hits, one of them Fred McGriff's second-inning home run, in six innings.

Neagle (5-7) walked none, struck out six and kept the Cubs off balance by changing his pitches' speed. He retired the last 15 Cubs he faced.

Payton, the Rockies' center fielder and leadoff man, doubled home his team's only two runs off Clement in the top of the fifth inning. Payton also made a diving catch in left-center to rob Mark Bellhorn of an extra-base hit leading off the bottom of the ninth.

All three Cubs who batted in the ninth hit the ball hard off Rockies closer Jose Jiminez, who earned his 28th save.

Corey Patterson, batting after Bellhorn, drilled a line drive that shortstop Juan Uribe picked off near his shoetops. And Sammy Sosa, the Cubs' last hope, flied to Larry Walker near the warning track in right.

"I didn't hit it good," said Sosa, whose high drive was held up by a 13 m.p.h. wind. "Got under it too much."

For the second day in a row, a Cubs starter pitched extremely well but did not earn a victory.

On Friday Kerry Wood struck out 13 and limited the Rockies to two runs in seven innings but received a no-decision in a 6-4 victory in 12 innings. On Saturday Clement (8-8) scattered seven hits in eight innings, walked two and struck out seven.

"My fastball was my best pitch today," Clement said. "Usually it's my slider. They have a tough lineup. They have speed around maybe the best two hitters in the league, Larry Walker and Todd Helton."

Walker, hitting .364, had two hits and stretched his hitting streak to 17 games. Helton went 0-for-4 and dropped to .323.

Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez appraised both stars in the pitching duel.

"Neagle was effective changing speeds and keeping us off balance," he said. "We kept it close, but we couldn't get a rally started. That made it tough, especially with the wind blowing in.

"Matt [Clement] pitched an excellent game. His sinker was working, so they hit a lot of ground balls. That kept our infielders on our toes."

Cubs manager Bruce Kimm also credited both pitchers.

Clement "was outstanding," Kimm said. "He pitched well though to win.

"Neagle obviously was good. He shut us down. We hit three balls hard in the ninth. If one had dropped in, I would have felt pretty good. But Payton made a great defensive play on the first one."

McGriff's home run was his 23rd of the season and raised his career RBI total to 1,474, one behind Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams.