One by one, they refused to overanalyze.
Why did the Cubs pound the White Sox 10-2 Saturday at Comiskey Park? The answer could be summed up in two words: Jon Lieber.
"The whole thing," Sox manager Jerry Manuel said, "hinged on the fact that Jon Lieber was the dominant pitcher today."
Said Cubs manager Jim Riggleman, "He was the story of the game."
Lieber, who came to the Cubs in an off-season trade that sent Brant Brown to Pittsburgh, improved to 8-3 with a masterful eight-inning performance. The 29-year-old right-hander gave up just one run on seven hits and didn't walk a batter.
"He wasn't hard to figure out; he was just hard to hit," Sox designated hitter Paul Konerko said. "We knew what was coming, but he spotted it so well there was nothing we could do. He was almost perfect."
Lieber's pitching was in sharp contrast to the Sox's defense. They were just inept enough to turn a gorgeous summer day into a slopfest before another sellout crowd of 44,008.
Shortstop Mike Caruso had another tough day in the field, air-mailing his only throw of the day to first base for his 16th error. Caruso also flubbed a potential double play in the third.
Sox starter Jaime Navarro (6-8) wasn't hit hard, but he couldn't overcome the defensive lapses.
"Jaime is pitching very well," Manuel said, "but anytime there's some adversity, we're not able to overcome it for him or he isn't able to overcome it."
As usual, Navarro was anything but easygoing after the game.
"From now on, every game counts," Navarro said. "No more kid stuff. This is the big leagues. I don't care if you're 19, 20, leaving childhood, in high school or whatever. If you're man enough to play, OK."
Navarro's appeal might have been more effective if he hadn't also committed an error. After catcher Jeff Reed--playing in his first game for the Cubs--led off the third inning with a bunt single, Jose Hernandez hit a slow tapper back to the box.
Navarro fired to Caruso, who hung on to the ball just long enough to get a generous out call from umpire Ted Barrett. Curtis Goodwin than laid down a sacrifice bunt, which Navarro fielded and threw well wide of first base.
Mickey Morandini drove in Hernandez. And after Sammy Sosa struck out, Mark Grace laced a two-out, two-run single to right for a 3-0 lead.
The Cubs' bats were potent enough to hit double digits in runs on a day when Sosa went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. Hernandez hit a solo homer in the fourth and Glenallen Hill belted a two-run shot to center in the sixth to send Navarro on his way.
Navarro hasn't allowed more than four earned runs in any of his last 10 outings, but he is just 4-4 in that span and has lost his last three starts.
"Sometimes things like that happen," Navarro said. "I can't hit. That's what the rest of the guys on the team are for. I gave up six runs, but it doesn't matter. My job is to keep the game close and let my team come back."
The Sox were not about to do that against Lieber, who has given up just eight earned runs in his last five starts.
Lieber got some help in the first when Durham was thrown out at the plate by third baseman Tyler Houston. Over the next six innings, the Sox couldn't get a runner past second.
"I don't like to walk anybody," he said. "My whole game plan is to be aggressive and if they hit it, so be it."
Lieber's stellar outing allowed Cubs fans to stick out their chests, although South Siders will surely remind them that the Sox lead the season series 4-1.
"At Wrigley . . . it was embarrassing," Lieber said. "I thought about it all last night and I took it out with me today."