Clement's 5-0 record in 10 starts has ended any doubts about whether he could make a smooth transition to the AL after posting a losing record in seven NL seasons.
His latest victory came Sunday when he pitched seven perfect innings during his sixth career complete game, an efficient 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
"Efficient usually doesn't get put by my name," said Clement, who averaged 8.2 hits and 4.2 walks per nine innings entering this season. "I don't think everything was perfect, but everything worked. I made pitches when I had to."
He struck out seven, walked none and allowed four hits in Boston's first complete game this season, lowering his ERA to 3.34. In his team-high 10 starts, Clement has 47 strikeouts and 22 walks. He is also the first Red Sox pitcher to start 5-0 in his first season with the team since John Burkett went 7-0 in 2002.
Clement surpassed his previous best start, 4-0 with San Diego in 2000, and pitched his first complete game since Aug. 29, 2003, with the Cubs against Milwaukee.
"You always want to get off to a good start with a new team," he said. "It's nice to feel like you fit in from the get-go and that's how it's felt from the day I walked in at spring training."
Clement threw just 110 pitches, two fewer than Atlanta starter John Smoltz threw in 4 2/3 innings.
The Braves "gave us some early-in-the-count outs that kept his pitch total down," Boston catcher Jason Varitek said.
By contrast, Boston's patience at the plate forced the Braves to go to their bullpen early. With the score 2-2, reliever Roman Colon
(0-1) gave up three runs in the sixth on David Ortiz's RBI double and Manny Ramirez's 11th homer of the year, a two-run shot.
"He gave them his best shot," Cox said. "Our bullpen's been good lately."
At least the Braves get to go home now after a 12-game, 14-day road trip on which they went 4-8 and fell out of first place in the NL East. They face the Mets on Monday.
"It was one for the ages," Smoltz said. "We need to get home and play better baseball."
Ramirez finally did that in his own home park and emerged from a long slump. The World Series MVP went 3-for-5 to raise his batting average from .229 to .242.
"It all came down to Manny," Smoltz said. "He's a professional hitter and he got us today."
Yet Clement was the star, again justifying Boston's decision to sign him as a free agent after he went 9-13 with the Cubs last season.
He retired his first nine batters, four on strikeouts, before Atlanta took a 2-0 lead. Rafael Furcal led off the fourth with a double, went to third on a groundout and scored on a single by
Marcus Giles. Atlanta then loaded the bases when Adam LaRoche was hit by a pitch and Andruw Jones singled. Johnny Estrada's sacrifice fly drove in Giles.
The other hit off Clement was a leadoff single by Pete Orr in
the ninth, but manager Terry Francona never thought of taking him out.
"He stayed aggressive and he just attacked the strike zone," Francona said. "There was no reason to go get him."
Smoltz didn't allow a run until the fifth, when Boston tied it at 2 after stranding eight runners through four innings. Ortiz walked, went to second on an error by third baseman Wilson Betemit and scored on a single by Kevin Youkilis. Bill Mueller's single drove in the tying run.
Colon relieved Smoltz and ended the inning when Mark Bellhorn
struck out for the second time. Bellhorn, who led the AL with a team-record 177 strikeouts last year, has fanned at least twice in 18 of his 37 starts this year.
But Colon ran into trouble in the sixth.
Boston's cleanup hitter began breaking out of his slump when he doubled in a run in his last at-bat of Atlanta's 7-5 win Saturday night.
Boston first baseman Kevin Millar did not play after fouling a ball off his left instep Saturday night. "He's very sore," Francona
said. Youkilis started in place of Millar, who said he might be ready to play Tuesday in Toronto. ... Atlanta activated right-hander Kevin Gryboski from the 15-day disabled list and sent left-hander Frank Brooks to Triple-A Richmond. ... Every Red Sox starter got a hit except Renteria.