A magician, a wizard, a surgeon, a druid, an angel sent straight from the Baseball Gods to guide us through this miserable year. Shane Bieber is a number of things, but above all he is a dominant starting pitcher who showed no mercy against a team that had no business being on the same field as him.
Bieber has been brilliant all year, and tonight against the Pirates he turned in another Cy Young-worthy six innings of work: 11 strikeouts, six hits and no walks. You may be surprised to know that this was only Bieber’s second game of the season without issuing a free base, and it was tied for his shortest outing of the season.
He seemingly didn’t struggle much tonight, but even without the walks he racked up pitch counts on his way to his fourth double-digit strikeout game of the season. He worked his full four-pitch arsenal, including his nasty knuckle curve for nine total whiffs, five of which came on strike three counts. He only threw his changeup once, though, so he clearly either doesn’t need it or doesn’t feel completely confident in it still.
But he can also just pull out a cutter, slider, and the aforementioned curve, so who needs a changeup anyway? What in the world are you supposed to do against this?
Shane Bieber, 95mph Fastball and 83mph Knuckle Curve, Overlay pic.twitter.com/bvC0ZAYW04— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 20, 2020
The Pirates put just four balls into play hit over 100 mph. One was hit straight into the ground for an easy out and the other three went for singles.
Beyond Bieber, the bullpen held down the final three innings with James Karinchak and Brad Hand forming a nice 1-2 to end the game. Karinchak had some trouble locating his curveball early on and walked Kevin Newman to lead off the eighth. He was able to turn to his fastball against Adam Frazier and wrangled his curveball back under control for three straight strikes to Jose Osuna to end the inning.
Brad Hand was on point, most notably with a sick back-door slider against the lead-off batter in the ninth, Bryan Reynolds. His fastball touched 92.9 mph and all but one of his sliders went for strikes. He seems to have turned the corner from Bad Hand and he hasn’t allowed an earned run in the month of August.
Offensively — yikes. The Indians were lucky that Beau Taylor temporarily transformed himself into an MLB player and got both of their runs home. Taylor’s first RBI came in a traditional fashion — a single that scored Franmil Reyes from third. His second came in the eighth with the bases loaded when he hit a dribbler to Josh Bell. The ball should have been an easy out at home with Franmil Reyes trucking his way to the plate, but Bell went with an Adam Cimber-esque delivery and pulled his catcher off the plate. The result was a run on an error made possible by a whole bunch of hustle from Reyes.
Unfortunately, Francisco Lindor just looked lost out there again (still?). He did make hard contact off Trevor Williams and singled in the third, but his other four at-bats were empty with one strikeout and three fly outs. Domingo Santana took the mantle of “Santana that walks a lot” by drawing three on the night. He didn’t whiff on a single pitch, which seems like a big deal.
The win extended the Indians’ winning streak to six and they will return home this weekend to look to extend that streak even further against the Tigers.