Series: Game 1 of 3

Chi Cubs leads 1-0 (as of 9/15)

Game 1: Monday, September 15
NY Mets1Final
Chi Cubs4
Game 2: Tuesday, September 16
NY Mets2Final
Chi Cubs3
Game 3: Wednesday, September 17
NY Mets0Final
Chi Cubs2

Mets 1

(63-86, 31-45 away)

Cubs 4

(80-70, 40-36 home)

    8:05 PM ET, September 15, 2003

    Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois 

    R H E
    NYM - -
    CHC - -

    W: M. Clement (13-11)

    L: J. Griffiths (1-3)

    S: J. Borowski (29)

    Cubs pull within 1 1/2 games of Astros

    CHICAGO (AP) -- The thought of the playoffs is enough to make even the worst of the Chicago Cubs' aches and pains go away.

    Matt Clement was dazzling despite pitching with a strained groin, matching his career high with his 13th victory Monday night as the Cubs gained ground in the NL Central with a 4-1 victory over the New York Mets.

    The victory pulled Chicago within 1½ games of first-place Houston, which was idle.

    "That was an outstanding performance by Matt," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "This time of year, you've got to put pain out of your mind if you can without threatening serious injury to yourself."

    Clement (13-11) has been bothered by a strained groin since his Sept. 3 start, when he got hit in a calf and then had to run the bases. He had to leave his previous start in the sixth inning despite having a no-hit bid and a 4-0 lead.

    Though he has been improving with daily treatment, he still isn't 100 percent. But it sure didn't look that way against the Mets.

    "I doubt it'll be completely gone until I get to rest it in the offseason," Clement said. "But it's not holding me back any. At least, I think I'm able to combat it."

    New York managed just three infield singles against Clement in seven innings, and the only run he allowed was unearned. He struck out five and walked two.

    Of his 102 pitches, 64 were strikes.

    "He did what they hoped for," Mets manager Art Howe said. "He went out and shut us down."

    He got some help from his teammates, too. The Cubs scored three runs in the first inning off Jeremy Griffiths, getting a two-run double by Randall Simon. The RBI were Simon's first at Wrigley Field since he was acquired from Pittsburgh on Aug. 16.

    Simon has driven in 17 runs on the road with the Cubs.

    "When you see a guy battling out there and you know he's in pain, it just gives you the strength to give everything you've got for him," Simon said of Clement. "Because that's what he's doing for us."

    Joe Borowski pitched a perfect ninth for his 29th save in 33 chances.

    The Cubs improved to 11-4 in September, and they need every one of those wins. Though they have an easier schedule than Houston, they don't play the Astros again this season.

    "Everything's essential right now," Clement said.

    It shows on the field. Griffiths (1-3) was the fourth straight pitcher the Cubs were seeing for the first time, and they wasted no time getting acquainted. Kenny Lofton and Mark Grudzielanek led off the first inning with singles and, one out later, Moises Alou hit an RBI single.

    Simon followed with his two-run double, giving Chicago a 3-0 lead.

    "To get those three runs early is huge," Clement said. "I can't say enough about those guys."

    The Cubs got another run in the fourth thanks to some shoddy defense. Aramis Ramirez hit a grounder to third, but the ball bounced off Ty Wigginton's glove and rolled under a tarp along the left-field wall.

    Ramirez advanced all the way to second on the error, scoring one out later on Paul Bako's triple.

    Griffiths gave up four runs -- three earned -- and six hits in four innings.

    The Mets spoiled Clement's shutout bid in the fifth. Jorge Velandia led off with a single, and Jeff Duncan laid down a bunt to move him over. But Clement appeared to slip as he tried to field the ball, and Duncan reached on an infield single.

    "I don't really think my leg affected me on that play; I just had bad timing," Clement said. "When I got the ball and turned, I wasn't expecting him to be a step and a half from first base. I think I was kind of shocked and I had to hurry up and throw it."

    One out later, Roger Cedeno lined out to Ramirez. But when Ramirez threw to first for the double play, the ball hit Duncan on the backside, allowing Velandia to take third.

    He scored on Clement's wild pitch to cut Chicago's lead to 4-1. But the Mets couldn't get Duncan home, as Clement struck out Danny Garcia to end the inning.

    Game notes

    Clement also had 13 victories in 2000, when he was with the San Diego Padres. ... Grudzielanek is hitting 10-for-18 over his last four games. ... Ramirez's error was his 30th of the year but only his seventh since being traded to the Cubs on July 22. ... The Cubs announced before the game that they will retire Ron Santo's No. 10. Billy Williams and Ernie Banks are the only other Cubs to have had their numbers retired.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press