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Shane Bieber and a Perfect Baseball Night

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Fifteen months ago, Shane Bieber was pitching for the Akron Rubber Ducks in the Eastern League, two levels beneath the Cleveland Indians and the promised land of Major League Baseball. He posted a 1.16 ERA in five dominant outings in Akron and quickly earned a promotion to AAA Columbus. A 1.66 ERA across eight starts with the Clippers captured the full attention of the parent club and so, on the evening of May 31, 2018, Bieber found himself on the mound at Target Field in Minneapolis, pitching in a major league game. He only allowed four runs to the Minnesota Twins that night but was demoted to Columbus before returning on June 17th. He pitched the remainder of the season for the Indians, finishing with a 4.55 ERA and a good chance of beginning the 2019 campaign in the Cleveland rotation.

When the Tribe departed Goodyear, Arizona in March 2019 to begin the regular season, Bieber was penciled in as the fifth starter. However, he would soon be much more than that as disaster struck the Indians’ pitching staff again and again. On April 7th, Mike Clevinger suffered a back injury that landed him on the injured list for more than two months. Corey Kluber, the ace of the staff, had his arm broken by a line drive on May 2nd. Jefry Rodriguez, Clevinger’s replacement, hurt his shoulder during a game on June 1st. Finally, on June 5th, Carlos Carrasco was shelved with an illness that was later revealed to be leukemia. With misfortune threatening to ruin the Indians’ season, Bieber became the rock of the starting rotation. On May 19th, he tossed a complete game shutout, striking out fifteen Baltimore Orioles. He struck out ten Tampa Bay Rays in his next start and then twelve Detroit Tigers were felled by his right arm on June 15th. He whiffed eleven Orioles in eight scoreless frames on the final day of June, recording his seventh win and lowering his ERA to 3.54. On July 5th, Tribe manager Terry Francona called Bieber into his office; fifteen months after facing AA hitters in Akron, Shane Bieber was a Major League Baseball All-Star.

There was Shane Bieber, pitching for the American League in the fifth inning of the Midsummer Classic on July 9th, in front of more than 36,000 fans at Progressive Field. He struck out Wilson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs with a fastball. Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks went down swinging on a filthy curveball. The twenty-four year old pitcher was dominating.

There I was, sitting in the upper deck along the left field line, watching this masterful performance. We stood. We roared. Bieb-er! Bieb-er! Bieb-er! The chants were deafening. Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves worked the count full, but Bieber froze him with a wicked slider for a called third strike. Bieber walked off the field to adoring cheers. The young man had struck out the side in an All-Star Game, in front of his home fans and millions more watching around the world. It was a magical baseball moment.

Two hours later, Bieber was named the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game. As he held the trophy high above his head, we cheered again for a pitcher whose rapid ascension from minor leaguer to All-Star has been so enjoyable to watch and promises so much for the future.

What a night.

What a perfect baseball night.

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