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Pirates hand Lieber loss for first time

5/30/2002

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Kip Wells is giving the Pittsburgh Pirates the
kind of starter they haven't had in years: a stopper.

Wells pitched a four-hitter for Pittsburgh's first complete game
this season and the Pirates finally solved their Jon Lieber jinx by
beating the Chicago Cubs 5-0 Wednesday night.

Wells (8-2) won his fourth in a row to become the fifth NL
pitcher to win eight games, with all but one victory following a
Pirates loss. He is only two victories short of his win total a
year ago, when he was 10-11 for the White Sox and lost his starting
job before being dealt to Pittsburgh.

"I'm just happy he's progressing the way he is,'' manager Lloyd
McClendon said. "That was an outstanding effort. He's using all
his pitches, working fast out there and letting his defense work
for him.''

It was the Pirates' first complete game since Bronson Arroyo
beat the Mets on Oct. 2 and their first shutout since a combined
effort against Cincinnati on April 8.

The last Pirates pitcher to throw a shutout was Todd Ritchie in
a 1-0, one-hit victory against Kansas City on July 13; Ritchie was
later dealt for Wells and pitchers Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe.

Wells doesn't know if he would be having similar success with
the White Sox. But he said he has benefitted from the change of
scenery, teammates, coaches and leagues.

"I think I have the talent to do the same thing, but they've
given me an opportunity here, and there's a different mindset here
and different challenges,'' Wells said. "They've kept telling me
here to trust the stuff I've got and throw it over the plate, and
maybe I'm finally listening.''

The right-handed Wells was in control from the start, especially
after the Pirates -- losers of six of eight -- opened a 4-0 lead
against Lieber, whom they had never beaten.

"We really never got him (Wells) in trouble at all,'' Cubs
manager Don Baylor said. "He went right through the lineup, made
pitches and got a lot of early outs. And we gave them too many outs
at the beginning.''

Wells took a one-hitter into the seventh before yielding singles
to Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou. He struck out four and walked two to
extend the best start by a Pirates pitcher since Jason Schmidt was
8-1 in 1998.

"It's fun to be an outfielder or an infielder when he's out
there, because it's fun to watch what he does,'' shortstop Jack
Wilson said. "He throws strikes and hits his spots and works fast
and keeps his defense in the game.''

Lieber (3-4), traded by the Pirates to the Cubs following the
1998 season, had dominated his former team since then, going 7-0 in
10 starts that included a two-hitter and a three-hitter.

But Lieber was in trouble in nearly every inning, getting no
help from a sloppy defense that committed two errors and probably
could have been given a couple of others.

Lieber, a 20-game winner last season, extended his winless
streak to six by giving up 12 hits and five runs, three earned,
over six innings.

"Probably the most disappointing part is I felt great and I
felt I had a great slider,'' Lieber said. "For me to be
successful, I have to be able to locate my fastball and get ahead
of guys, and I wasn't able to do that.''

Since starting 3-0, Lieber is winless since April 25, allowing
four or more runs four times in six starts.

Lieber didn't take long to get into trouble. Chad Hermansen
singled off shortstop Alex Gonzalez's glove and third baseman Bill
Mueller couldn't handle Abraham Nunez's hard-hit grounder to start
the first. Jason Kendall, moved up from sixth to third as McClendon
again adjusted the NL's least-productive batting order, then had an
RBI single.

Nunez later scored on a delayed double steal when catcher Joe
Girardi threw wildly trying to get Brian Giles at second. Giles was
given a stolen base while Nunez scored on the error.

Wilson, who had three hits, doubled and scored on Wells' RBI
single in the second, and tripled ahead of Gonzalez's error on
Nunez's grounder in the sixth. Kevin Young also had a run-scoring
single in the third.

Game notes
By winning the first two games of the four-game series, the
Pirates are assured of at least a split. They had lost nine of
their last 10 series. ... Both center fielders made excellent
catches. Hermansen made a sliding, stretched-out catch of Fred
McGriff's liner in the first, and the Cubs' Corey Patterson ranged
far to his right for a backhanded grab of Aramis Ramirez's shot
into the gap in the seventh. ... Pirates 2B Abraham Nunez had two
hits, making him 9-for-20 against Lieber.