Bob Feller, Corey Kluber, Sam McDowell, Herb Score, Luis Tiant, and Shane Bieber. Those are the only Indians pitchers to eclipse 250 strikeouts in a single season, and only one of them also pitched to a win against the Phillies on September 20, 2019. Checkmate, Robert.
It’s hard to imagine even the staunchest Beliebers in the years before his debut saw this kind of season for Shane Bieber. But it’s here, and all signs point it to not being a fluke. The command is real. The competitiveness is real. And now the nasty strikeout stuff is real as well.
Bieber crossed the 200 innings pitched threshold in his last outing, and tonight he crossed 250 strikeouts. On top of that, he was perfect through three innings, and only choppy fifth inning kept him from pitching a complete game shutout, if not a Maddux.
There weren’t a ton of hard-hit balls tonight, only a handful over 100 mph, with Scott Kingery’s 103.7 mph single registering as the hardest hit ball off of Bieber. With his typical fastball sitting in the mid-90’s, Bieber induced seven swinging strikes with his knuckle curve and 13 called strikes with his four-seamer. All in all, 67 of his 101 pitches went for strikes and the Phillies were only able to put 21 balls into play — with an average exit velocity of just 90.6 mph. Sprinkle on a dash of zero walks, and that’s a recipe for domination.
Run support for Bieber came early with Oscar Mercado doubling home the first run of the game in the bottom of the first and Yasiel Puig following two batters later with an RBI single that score Mercado from second. In the second, Francisco Lindor singled home Andrew Velazquez and, in the final at-bat of the inning, Carlos Santana singled to score Mercado, who reach earlier on a fielder’s choice. Of course, the inning could have resumed after Santana plated Mercado, but he overran first base and was easily tagged out.
Maybe Santana was just excited to make a big play against the Phillies, a team that he — being a lifetime Cleveland Indians player — has no previous history with.
The final Tribe run of the game came in the bottom of the seventh when Yu Chang reached on an error. An error that ... I guess? ... wasn’t supposed to be an error? Matt Underwood seemed pretty incensed that the scorekeepers marked it as an error, despite the fact that the ball was in the center fielder’s glove before he dropped it and allowed Chang to reach second. It wasn’t an easy play, sure, but it looked make-able to me. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer in recent years. Either way, as of this writing it still goes as an error, but if Underwood is correct, it’ll be corrected to a double at some point.
Speaking of calls that should retroactively changed, someone needs to find a way to credit Carrasco a strikeout in the eighth inning. The next batters grounded out anyway, so who cares. It won’t change anything. Just give Cookie the strikeout he deserves and bring out the robot umps. Just look at this atrocity:
Carrasco would rebound, to say the least. After dispatching the aforementioned final batter in the eighth, he mowed down the bottom of the Phillies order in the ninth for one of his best outings since returning from Leukemia. Let me rephrase that: Carlos Carrasco is kicking cancer’s ass and becoming a force in the bullpen. He is amazing.
With Cookie notching only the second save of his career (the other came on July 16, 2014 against the Angels), the Indians have won five in a row and now must wait patiently for either the Royals or Red Sox to wake up and help them out. I’m not holding my breath.