"We won't do that," Manuel said of the Clemens treatment for Lieber. "But if he pitches like that, I might consider it. I told him that, really. I'm sure he would agree to that. He would probably like that."
Lieber insisted he didn't want that special treatment.
"I appreciate the Phillies letting me go back and spend as much time as I did," Lieber said. "It can be hectic. I went through this with my second child, Jared. I didn't have as much time at home."
Jared was born on July 27, 2000. Lieber, then with the Cubs, returned to pitch against the Giants on July 30, 2000, and threw a complete-game four-hitter, striking out eight and walking one in picking up the victory.
"It's really weird," Lieber said.
His teammates certainly would not object to Lieber getting more of the Clemens treatment if he pitches like he did against the Royals, who drafted him in 1992 but traded him to the Pirates before he reached the Majors.
"Whatever is going to make him pitch well," catcher Rod Barajas said. "It doesn't matter to me."
In Lieber's previous two starts, he gave up 23 hits and 10 runs in 11 2/3 innings in losses to the Giants and Diamondbacks.
"If you look at the last couple of games, the numbers probably look like I basically pitched like [junk], but I felt the way I felt in those games," Lieber said. "I didn't feel any different.
"I know it has been quoted, 'Here we go again. He's pitching like he was in 2006 (9-11, 4.93 ERA).' I'm not even close to that. Results can be deceiving. I don't feel like I've changed anything differently. It's just being able to throw the ball, get strikes, pitch ahead and get the guys on and off the field."
After giving up a leadoff single to David DeJesus, Lieber struck out the next six Royals. He allowed only two Royals to reach second base: DeJesus stole second with two out in the first and John Buck led off the fifth with a double.
Lieber reached only three-ball counts on three hitters: Shane Costa in the first, Mark Teahen in the sixth and Mark Grudzielanek in the ninth.
"I didn't feel they were that aggressive," Lieber said of the Kansas City hitters. "They were taking a lot of strikes throughout the game. It didn't seem like they started to swing until the fifth or sixth inning on. I was able to get some calls, and the guys played great behind me."
It was his 25th complete game and his fifth career shutout. His last complete game, also a shutout, was Aug. 16, 2006, against the Mets. Saturday marked the ninth time in Lieber's career that he logged double-figure strikeouts.
"His command was good and he really concentrated on pitching to those young hitters," Manuel said. "He got left-handed hitters out good tonight because he kept his slider down and threw just enough balls up and in on them to keep them honest."
Instead of the Lieber of 2006, it could be more like 2005, when he won 17 games for the Phillies.
"He's what I call a rhythm pitcher," Manuel said. "All of a sudden, he's capable of running off some streaks where he wins five or six in a row. That's kind of how he pitches."
Greg Dobbs led the Phillies' offense with two hits and two RBIs. His single in the second scored Aaron Rowand, who led off the inning with a single. In a three-run fourth, Pat Burrell, Rod Barajas and Dobbs all produced RBI doubles off losing pitcher Gil Meche. The rest of the night belonged to Lieber.
"I love playing behind Lieber." Dobbs said. "I think we all do. He's going to get the ball, get on the mound and go after it and keep that pace going. That's fun. When he's dealing, like he did, we're back in the dugout and hitting again [quickly]. He's a lot of fun to play behind."
Lieber retired the final 15 batters after Buck's double.
"He never really had any kind of hiccup," Barajas said. "He threw three pitches that were left over the plate, and the only one hit was the one Buck hit. He was cruising the rest of the way."