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Many pitchers throw faster than Jon Lieber. But none throw as quickly.
Cubs manager Don Baylor should know that by now. But after Lieber (6-4) breezed through the Cardinals' lineup Friday in a 2-1 victory that lasted just one hour 49 minutes, Baylor had to change his dinner reservations.
"I had a late one," he said. "Now it's going to be early."
It was the shortest nine-inning game of the year by four minutes.
"To me that's a National League game," Baylor said. "You come out, you throw strikes."
Said Lieber, "I wish they could all be like that."
Lieber pitched a similar game last season, a one-hitter against Cincinnati on May 24 that lasted 1:48. He needed just 78 pitches that day to polish off the Reds.
Lieber was not quite as efficient Friday. He threw 107 pitches, 79 for strikes, and didn't walk a batter.
"It's not only that he works fast because there are other pitchers who do that," catcher Joe Girardi said. "He hits his spot 90 percent of the time.
Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer "told me that if you can find a guy who can throw the ball down and away seven out of 10 times, you're going to find a successful pitcher," Girardi added. "On a great day like today, [Lieber] will do it nine out of 10 times. His control is special."
Lieber's one blemish came on what Baylor called a "pitcher's pitch," a 1-0 fastball to J.D. Drew in the first inning that was down and away. Drew drove it to center field for his 11th home run.
"I thought it would just be a fly ball, but it kept carrying," Lieber said. "He definitely has some power."
Said Baylor, "I looked at the tape and couldn't believe he hit that pitch out of the ballpark. But Jon didn't let that affect him."
Of the final 28 men he faced, Lieber allowed only two to reach, both on singles.
Asked what was working best for him, Lieber replied, "Probably Girardi. It was a great game called. The pitches and the location were just fine."
Lieber shook off Girardi just once, but neither player said he could recall the exact situation.
"I might have called for a fastball and he wanted to throw a slider," Girardi recalled. "The guy made an out. So he was right."
Fred McGriff gave Lieber all the support he needed with two homers off Woody Williams (4-3). It was McGriff's 39th career two-homer game.
"I got off to a bad start and I was disappointed in my own self," McGriff said. "But you just have to keep working."