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Lieber continues Wrigley brilliance

BaseballChicago CubsPhilosophyWrigley FieldReggie SandersBenito Santiago

Jon Lieber doesn't think. He throws.

He doesn't waste time worrying about the condition of his right elbow, his strategy against Barry Bonds or his phenomenal run at Wrigley Field.

"His personality is great for a starting pitcher," catcher Joe Girardi said. "He doesn't worry about the next start and he definitely doesn't worry about the last start. His philosophy is very simple."

What is that philosophy?

"Make the pitch," Lieber said. "Try to hit the [catcher's] glove. If I miss it, that's my fault."

Lieber is rarely at fault. The Cubs' 2-1 win Thursday over the Giants was no exception. The 32-year-old right-hander didn't walk a batter and needed only 79 pitches for his eight innings. He gave up six hits, including five singles, and dominated Bonds as if he were anything but baseball's most feared hitter.

"He's my No. 1," gushed Sammy Sosa, who broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning with his eighth home run. "The way he goes out there and performs, it motivates you. It doesn't mean I don't play that way for other starters, but it's something else when Lieber's out there."

Lieber improved to 3-0 and extended his personal home winning streak to 13 since May 24, 2001. Even more remarkable, the Cubs are 15-0 in games Lieber has started during that span.

That's the second-longest winning streak for a pitcher at Wrigley Field since the club won 16 consecutive Lon Warneke starts during a stretch from 1932-33.

Lieber's explanation?

"I have no idea and I don't even want to think about it," he said.

Manager Don Baylor said: "It's pretty amazing with all the conditions here. He has won with the wind blowing out, wind blowing in, blowing to right."

It was howling toward Sheffield Avenue on Thursday, gusting to 36 m.p.h on a chilly day. But Lieber prevented the Giants from taking advantage, spotting his fastball and slider and working quickly—the game was played in a brisk 2 hours 14 minutes.

"Day in and day out, all he throws are strikes," said J.T. Snow, who had the Giants' lone extra-base hit against Lieber. "It's kind of refreshing to face a guy like that. That's the way baseball should be played."

Lieber, who missed his last start with mild tendinitis in his right elbow, gave up back-to-back singles to start the game. Then he induced a pop-up from Bonds on his first pitch and got Jeff Kent and Reggie Sanders to fly to center.

Bonds popped up on Lieber's first pitch in the fourth and grounded out on his first offering in the sixth. Lieber struck him out in the eighth on a 1-2 fastball that was high and tight.

"They know he's going to be around the plate, so they're going to be aggressive and a lot of time that works to our advantage," Girardi said.

After the Giants drew even on Pedro Feliz's sacrifice fly in the eighth, the Cubs scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning.

Girardi singled, advanced on Augie Ojeda's sacrifice bunt and moved to third on Corey Patterson's single. He scored on Delino DeShields' bouncer up the middle when second baseman Kent couldn't nab the speedy DeShields after stepping on second.

Antonio Alfonseca entered the ninth and earned his fourth save after shortstop Alex Gonzalez ranged deep in the hole on a Benito Santiago grounder with two outs and a runner on second.

"I was able to get a good grip on the ball," Gonzalez said. "I just planted and let it fly."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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