Where would the Red Sox be without Matt Clement? The 30-year-old righthander, who was signed to a three-year, $25 million contract over the winter, has become the ace of an otherwise underachieving rotation. Boston starters ranked 12th in the AL with a 4.63 ERA through Sunday. With righthander Curt Schilling (right ankle injury) still out, Clement has filled the void, improving to 8--1 after an 8--0 victory over the Pirates on Sunday.
In seven major league seasons with the Padres, the Marlins and the Cubs, Clement was known for being a hard thrower with good stuff but unreliable in pressure situations. Throughout his career he has struggled with his command--until this season. He has thrived in Boston because he's been able to locate his tumbling slider. He dominated the Pirates, striking out nine and scattering three hits in seven innings. He escaped a jam in the fourth by striking out two hitters on filthy sliders down and away. "It's a pitch that helps you get out of trouble with a strikeout when you need it," Clement said of his slider on Sunday. "It's been a pitch that I can go to at any time." --A.C.