Game #21 Observations: Shane Bieber's Gem Guides Tribe to 3-1 Win Over Tigers
As the old saying goes, there’s no better cure for an ailing offense than playing a division rival that hasn’t beaten you since April of 2019.
OK, just because that’s not an actual saying doesn’t make it any less true. It was proven once again on Saturday as the Cleveland Indians pulled off a 3-1 win and defeated the Detroit Tigers for the 19th straight time.
It was a welcome sight for many reasons.
While the score wasn’t as lopsided as the previous contest, it was still a much more productive showing than what Cleveland put on display earlier this week against the Cubs.
Likewise, Shane Bieber was given early run support, an infrequent concept for Tribe starters this season. Cleveland forced 32 pitches from Tigers starter Spencer Turnbull in the third inning alone, driving in two runs thanks to a pair of walks, a well-placed César Hernández bunt and a double from José Ramírez.
A fifth inning double from Carlos Santana pushed the Tribe’s lead to 3-0, which proved to be enough support for Bieber.
Of course, the game wasn’t without drama, which came by way of Brad Hand’s first save attempt since August 9.
Before touching on that, let’s kick off observations by breaking down yet another gem from Cleveland’s ace.
Tigers Can’t Touch Bieber
Bieber faced five hitters before notching his very first strikeout Saturday. This certainly isn’t noteworthy for most pitchers, but slightly out of character for someone who entered the night leading the league with a 13.99 K/9.
Not to worry, though. Bieber got back to normal in a hurry.
The Tribe’s top starter ended the night with eleven strikeouts, allowing just three hits and no earned runs. Bieber now has 54 K’s through his first five starts of the year, a feat topped by only two pitchers (Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson) since 1906.
As he has all year, Bieber used a heavy dose of curves Saturday, an attack Detroit could do little against. He threw 26 in this game, generating nine misses on 15 swings for a whiff rate of 60%.
Those Tigers that did get a hold of Bieber’s offerings rarely did so with much authority. Overall, he allowed just 13 balls in play, with an average exit velocity of 89.2.
The only time Bieber looked to be in any trouble was with the first batter of the night. Niko Goodrum barreled the fifth pitch of the game, a ball which, had it been launched at a slightly lower angle, would’ve landed in the stands.
However, it was nothing but a loud out. From there, Bieber comfortably cruised to his fourth win of the year.
Almost Hand-ed Away
Unfortunately, his efforts were almost wiped out, thanks to another shaky save attempt from Hand.
Cleveland’s closer took the mound with a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth, promptly walking the first batter he faced on just five pitches. After getting a loud lineout from Miguel Cabrera, Jonathan Schoop reached first base thanks to catcher interference from Sandy León.
Hand was able to get the second out of the inning, but then allowed a one-run double off the bat of JaCoby Jones. With the tying runs in scoring position, the Indians’ victory wasn’t as certain as it once appeared.
Luckily, Hand was finally able to get the job done, inducing a game-ending groundout from Cameron Maybin.
In fairness, Hand did what he was asked to do -- shut the door. Still, this isn’t the first time he’s shown a flair for the dramatic.
The closer situation will be closely monitored all season, and while Hand will likely get the nod the next time an opportunity arises, that may not be the case much longer if his appearances keep causing panic attacks within the fan-base.
We Need to Talk About Franky
While Cleveland is certainly bouncing back after a rocky start to the week, the same can’t be said for its star player. Saturday was yet another unproductive night from Francisco Lindor, which has unfortunately been the norm through 21 games.
Normally, that’d be considered far too small a sample size. This summer, 21 games equals 35% of the season. In that time, Lindor just hasn’t been producing.
He entered Saturday with a .225/.279/.375 slash line and ten RBIs on the year. His wOBA (.280) leaves a lot to be desired, while his wRC+ is 28 points below average (72). Lindor’s walk rate is down (4.7%) and his K-rate is higher than normal (18.6%).
Said numbers won’t look much better after this game, as Lindor went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
There’s obviously no reason to believe he’s going to struggle all season long. Lindor has long been one of Cleveland’s most productive hitters.
For now, though, he’s still having more than a few issues at the plate.
We’ll see if he can get his game going on Sunday, as the Indians go for the sweep and attempt to beat Detroit for the 20th straight time.