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Shane Bieber’s 12 strikeouts lead Indians over Tigers

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Shane Bieber looked great, the Tigers defense did not

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

I would love to point to Shane Bieber’s dominant outing tonight as his best of the season, but nothing can top what he did to the Orioles last month. Taking strength of opponent into account, this might not have even been his second best outing of 2019. He’s had too many good outings this season in general; it’s a rough life. Truly.

Instead, let’s just call this start that resulted in a 4-2 victory a very, very, very, very good one.

Bieber’s slider was absolutely filthy tonight, and combined with pinpoint control of his four-seam fastball, he was able to make the Tigers lineup look even worse than they really are.

The aforementioned slider induced 12 swinging strikes and seven called strikes while only being put into play six times on the night. Conversely, no one bit at his four-seamer, but he was placed so well that it was called nine times and fouled off 13 others — mostly in defense of a strikeout. His big curveball was also thrown for nine swinging strikes en route to a 12 strikeout, four-hit performance over 7.2 innings.

Here, have some Pitching Ninja GIFs.

There were at-bats here and there where Bieber looked like he was on the verge of losing command, but he kept fighting back. And, really, that’s what tonight was about for Bieber. The ability to fight back on a macro and micro level — be it fighting back in a single at-bat, between batters, or even between games.

This dominant display came immediately after one of the worst starts of Bieber’s young career when he allowed five hits over 1.2 innings against the Yankees Sunday. Like in that Yankees start, though, Bieber had a single inning that got to him. The only difference now being that it came in the seventh instead of the second; and he was also able to work out of it this time.

After cruising through six innings of rainy, foggy work, Beiber walked Christian Stewart and was hit by the next three Tigers batters to start the seventh. It only resulted in a pair of runs, though (off a Brandon Dixon single to left), because José Ramírez absolutely fooled Miguel Cabrera by stopping him halfway to third, throwing to second, and getting the ball back at third in time for the tag out — all before the rapidly aging Cabrera could make it to the base.

José had to fight back a smirk on his way back to the dugout.

Bieber bounced back from that bad inning by getting two quick outs against John Hicks and Dawel Lugo in the eighth before being pulled for Oliver Pérez. That officially shut the book on Bieber’s night, and should be more than enough to get him King of the Mound, if the staff is still doing such a thing.

The dark undertone of this game is that, without the Tigers being a miserable excuse for a defense, the Indians probably would have lost 2-0.

Francisco Lindor had a couple ugly at-bats, including one with Leonys Martin at second with no outs that he popped up on the first pitch. Martin managed to make it to third on the it, and even got home eventually (more on that in a minute), but Lindor was visibly frustrated and slammed his bat before the ball was even out of frame.

If you just look at the box score and see Oscar Mercado’s two singles — that looks pretty good! What you miss is the infield bungling one throw and the pitcher deflecting another and completely losing sight of it. Credit Mercado’s speed for being able to beat out mistakes, but it wasn’t exactly a mastery of the plate tonight either. His stolen base was equally as gifted when the Tigers’ second baseman forgot how to catch a ball thrown right into his glove. You hate to see it.

It may have only shown up as just one error in the box score, but Tigers defensive incompetence was a running theme tonight. As such, I’m a little leery to declare the offense “back” — even after 13 runs last night — but it sure was fun to watch in a masochistic kind of way.

Most fun of all was Leonys Martin, known Tiger killer, getting into the action as well with a double late in the game and STRAIGHT UP STEALING HOME. WHAT?!

You see, most of Leonys’ overall skill set may be aging like milk, but he’s still got speed and he has eyeballs. He saw Victor Alcántara staring at the ground for a good 2-3 seconds before every pitch. He saw that no one was covering third base and he could take a huge lead. He put two and two together and flew for home plate, dove, and was able to (inadvertently) slap the catcher’s glove and knock the ball free before trotting back to the dugout having given his team a two-run lead.

It was a work of art. Just look at it.

LOOK AT IT.

Brad Hand opted to be a merciful God tonight and let Miguel Cabrera enjoy a rousing dash to second base before striking out two of the next three batters to add to his growing save total; which now sits at an AL-league leading 20.

Indians go for the sweep tomorrow.