Jon Lieber approached manager Don Baylor before the ninth inning Sunday to tell him that he felt strong. That was Lieber's way of lobbying for the chance to earn his fourth career shutout.
Lieber could have saved his breath.
Even though the veteran right-hander had fired 113 pitches, Baylor had no intention of replacing him.
"I was going to let him finish the game," Baylor said. "He was in total command."
Lieber fell just shy of the shutout when Desi Relaford singled home Ruben Sierra with two outs in the ninth.
But that blemish hardly mattered as Lieber guided the Cubs to a 5-1 victory over the Mariners and ended his streak of seven consecutive winless starts.
"I definitely didn't carry [the streak] to the mound," Lieber said. "But it's disappointing not being able to help out these guys."
Lieber gave up 10 hits Sunday but didn't walk a batter in his 20th career complete game. He finished with 122 pitches, an astounding 87 for strikes.
"I didn't know how many pitches I had [after eight innings]," Lieber said. "I still don't. I was just letting him know I felt fine."
The Cubs managed just one hit off rookie right-hander Rafael Soriano through five innings. Then their bats came alive.
Corey Patterson led of the sixth with a single and advanced on a failed pickoff attempt. The Mariners should have assumed a sacrifice was coming, given that the Cubs' 117 sacrifice bunts last season led the majors.
But Bill Mueller appeared to catch Mariners third baseman Mark McLemore off guard and beat out his perfectly placed bunt.
Sammy Sosa made the Mariners pay by ripping Soriano's 1-0 pitch into the Cubs' bullpen beyond left field. It was Sosa's major-league-leading 22nd home run and it gave him 81 RBIs in interleague play, the most of any player.
Fred McGriff followed Sosa's blast with his second homer in three days.
By taking two of three from the first-place Mariners, the Cubs won their first series in two weeks.
Keeping with an odd trend, the Cubs have won the final game of their last four series. They're 2-7 in the rest of the games.
Cubs pitchers dominated Seattle in the series, allowing no homers and just five runs. Ichiro Suzuki, who entered the weekend with a .477 on-base percentage, reached only once in 12 trips to the plate.
"You count your blessings when you do get him out," Baylor said. "You luck out sometimes. And we made good pitches. We didn't stay in one pattern with him."
The Mariners started seven left-handed hitters against Lieber, who had allowed lefties to bat .294 against him this season. Lieber responded by pounding the lefties with inside fastballs.
"He pitched inside today better than I've ever seen," said catcher Todd Hundley, who caught Lieber for just the third time this season. "He kept coming in and coming in and they couldn't get their arms extended.
"To keep these guys to one run, that's awesome."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times