Silva struck out a career-high 11 batters and gave up two hits over seven innings to help the Cubs beat the Cardinals, 5-0. Mike Fontenot hit a pair of triples and drove in a run as Chicago evened the series in front of 40,601 at Wrigley Field.
Silva is the first Cubs starting pitcher to begin 7-0 since Ken Holtzman opened 1967 at 9-0. The right-hander, whom the Cubs acquired in December from Seattle for Milton Bradley, topped his previous strikeout high, which was eight, set June 12, 2004. It has been quite a turnaround for the right-hander, who was 5-18 in two seasons with the Mariners.
"I was surprised the way I pitched those two years in Seattle -- that was a surprise," Silva said.
What about the 11 strikeouts Saturday?
"That was a surprise, too," Silva said. "I never thought I could strike out that many people. When I pitched for the Phillies, I struck out eight and I was like, 'Wow.'"
The key was perfect execution.
"One thing I did today was I didn't throw any pitch just to throw it," Silva said. "Every single pitch had a purpose today. Before the game, [catcher] Koyie Hill and [pitching coach] Larry Rothschild and I had a meeting. I think Koyie Hill, he recorded every single word Larry said. In the beginning, it was like we were on the same page. He called a really good game. He made me throw some pitches that I never throw. That was a big help."
Hill didn't know he was starting until he came in for the final round of batting practice. Geovany Soto was a late scratch because he was feeling under the weather. It wasn't that Hill asked Silva to do something radically different. He wanted the pitcher to mix up his pitches more than Silva was used to.
"I throw my curve to throw a first-pitch strike," Silva said. "I don't throw it to strike people out. Today, [Hill] made me throw it inside for lefties, backdoor for lefties. I'm not used to pitching like that. It was really good calls."
"I can do that every game, but if a guy's not executing pitches, it's all for naught," Hill said. "You have to execute your pitches, and he did it as well as anybody I've ever seen.
"He makes us all look good," Hill said of Silva. "He makes the infielders look better -- they're on their toes -- it speeds up the game, it forces the hitters to be more defensive, because they're always ahead and always throwing strikes."
Silva gave up two hits, both by Matt Holliday, who singled in the second and doubled in the seventh. He did not walk a batter and was pulled after throwing a season-high 100 pitches.
"This is as good as I've seen him throw," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He's had some good games this year, but stuff-wise, changing speeds, good fastball, breaking ball -- today was as good as I've seen him throw all year."
The Cardinals' scouting report had Silva relying more on his sinker. He fooled them.
"Even if you did see him six times before that, I think today he had good stuff," St. Louis' Ryan Ludwick said. "I thought he located well, I thought he worked his offspeed in good areas. He wasn't afraid to throw anything in any count."
Silva's makeover began in January when Rothschild had the right-hander throw a bullpen session during the Cubs Convention in Chicago. It wasn't a getting-to-know-you-type workout, but Rothschild had changes he wanted Silva to make. The pitcher saw the Cubs staff was committed to getting him back on track, and he has paid them back with his hard work.
Silva got some help from his defense as rookie Starlin Castro made a great grab of Albert Pujols' hard-hit ball in the fourth and threw him out from deep in the hole.
"He hits it hard -- real hard," Castro said of Pujols.
The Cubs' offense then clicked. With one out in the fourth, Alfonso Soriano walked, stole second and scored on Marlon Byrd's single. Byrd hustled on the play, advancing to second on the throw and reaching third as center fielder Colby Rasmus' throw was off the mark. Fontenot followed with a RBI triple, his second of the game, and he scored on Castro's single.
Fontenot is the first Cubs player to hit two triples in a game since Jose Macias did so May 14, 2004, at San Diego.
"I can't remember if I've ever had two triples," Fontenot said. "It was like deja vu, because they were both in the same spot."
The loss spoiled Adam Ottavino's Major League debut. He gave up four runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking six.
The story was Silva.
"It's pretty easy to be back there when he's throwing a pitch exactly where you want it," Hill said. "Those games, it seems like you don't have to do anything. You let the big boy do what he does best."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.