CLEVELAND - Indians fans were harsh four years ago when then ace Corey Kluber struggled against the New York Yankees in the American League Divisional Series.
Four years later, only the name of the Indians ace has changed.
Shane Bieber was no match for the Yankees Tuesday night, as he allowed seven runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings in the eventual game one win for New York 12-3.
For his teammates, they stood by Bieber, but even they were somewhat stunned at how Tuesday night turned out.
“It surprised me, we know how good of a pitcher he is, they have good hitters, but this is baseball, it’s going to happen,” Indians Jose Ramirez said.
The Yankees looked like they were taking batting practice off the best pitcher in baseball in 2020, as they pounded Bieber and made him pay for every mistake he made.
Aaron Judge started the scoring with a two-run homer in the first inning just two batters in, and little did anyone know that was just a sign of things to come.
New York tacked on a run in the third, two in the fourth, and finally drove Bieber out of the game after 105 pitches with two outs in the fifth.
Twice the damage came with two outs, the first time in the third when he walked Aaron Hicks with two outs, and Luke Voit doubled off the wall in center to score Hicks to make it a 3-0 game.
Two innings later, again with two outs, the Yankees piled it on. Gio Urshela singled with two outs up the middle, and Gleyber Torres took a Bieber fastball 412 feet to center for a two-run homer to extend the lead to 7-2.
Bieber said that his effort was not due to not having done his homework on the aggressive Yankees.
“I felt extremely prepared coming into this start, fell behind first hitter and that first inning didn’t go as planned," Bieber said.
"I just wasn't’ as aggressive as I wish I could have been, I felt like I fell behind and fell into bad situations, bad counts, and not having my best stuff and making mistakes is what came out of tonight."
So just how did New York do it?
They were aggressive against Bieber all night, and unlike during the regular season when he was nearly unhittable, the Tribe pitcher didn’t have the movement on his fastball that he had throughout the season.
It was a stunning setback for Bieber, who was so dominant during the regular season that he won MLB’s pitching version of the “triple crown,” leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts.
That didn’t seem to impress the Yankees.
Bieber had given up 14 total runs all year long in 12 starts. He hadn't allowed more than 3 runs in any game, but on this night he was beat from pillar to post.
It’s the most runs Bieber has allowed in a game in his career. He allowed seven runs each to the Braves in April of 2019 and the Pirates in July of 2018.
Bieber said that while he didn't have his best stuff, in the past he's been able during the game to develop his off-speed pitches and then be able to count on them as the game progresses.
“You try and develop it throughout the game, I shied away from some pitches, I wasn’t being aggressive enough with my off-speed stuff in the zone,” Bieber said.
This was supposed to be different, it was Bieber’s turn to shine on the national stage against a team that Indians fans love to hate.
Instead, the Yankees made him look mortal, and now their backs are against the wall as if they don’t win Wednesday, the season is over.
His teammates have not lost confidence in him, despite their backs being against the wall with one more loss ending their season.
“Wouldn't it be nice if we were all robots, he’s human, he was off tonight," Indians RF Tyler Naquin said.
"I’ll play right field any day of the year behind Shane Bieber, he struggled at the plate and on the mound, but I’ll play behind Biebs any day, he’s going to give you everything he’s got win or lose."
Despite his worst outing of 2020, Bieber remained confident in his teammates, starting with fellow pitcher Carlos "Cookie" Carrasco, who will get the ball in the start on Wednesday.
“No excuses, we got two more games, and Cookie is going to go out and do his thing, and hopefully I’ll get the ball as soon as possible," Bieber said.
It may already be decided after the confidence that New York gained doing what they did to Bieber in game one.
To keep up with all of Cleveland Baseball Insiders’ coverage, click the "follow" button at the top right-hand corner of this page.