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2020’s worst pitcher shuts down Cleveland offense

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Not a great start to the season, but at least Shane Bieber looked sharp eventually

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

No starting pitcher finished 2020 with a higher ERA than Matthew Boyd’s 6.71. Today he shut down an offense that, supposedly, has eyes on the 2021 postseason.

Cleveland managed just three hits off of Boyd, whose fastball didn’t exceed 92 mph all day. The 30-year-old kept Cleveland’s off-balance with 27 sliders and 16 changeups, mostly down in the zone. Even when he missed it didn’t hurt him much — Cleveland’s offense drew four walks against him but stranded every one of them on base.

César Hernández showed some promise early with a double blistered at 107.7 mph, but the only other two balls hit over the century mark off Boyd were outs.

All told, Boyd finished the start of his 2021 redemption tour striking out two, walking four, and finishing with a clean record over 5.2 innings pitched. It sucked to watch, but try not to read too much into a team not hitting well in below-freezing temperatures.

Terry Francona made the unconventional decision to use Jordan Luplow as a lead-off batter, but it resulted in an 0-for-3 day. Still a good decision, given how Luplow normally hits against lefties such as Boyd, but it didn’t work out well this time. He was eventually pulled so Ben Gamel could face a righty — he finished with a walk and a strikeout in his Cleveland debut.

Boyd had the benefit of a snowstorm through the first couple innings; he also didn’t have to face Miguel Cabrera, who is apparently ageless and In The Best Shape of His Life. Cabrera took a rare mistake from Shane Bieber — a four-seamer placed up and away, directly in his wheelhouse — and hit it just over the outfield wall.

The snow was so heavy at the time that Cabrera didn’t even realize it was gone and slid into second base just to be sure. He eventually got the signal to circle the bases, and Detroit had the first and only lead of the game.

Everything about this tweet pains me, but I can’t deny how beautiful this series of shots is.

I hate it, but it sure is pretty.

There were no such beautiful highlights of Cleveland hitters because Cleveland hitters were bad until the very end. It’s the same story we’ve seen for several years now — runners left in scoring position and another great starting pitching performance wasted.

The offense did make some noise against Detroit’s bullpen, at least. Following an Amed Rosario single in the top of the ninth, a slimmed-down Roberto Pérez hit a two-run bomb to put Cleveland within striking distance again Gregory Soto. If you want take anything optimistic from this game (besides Bieber still being amazing), it could be that Pérez turned on a pitch down and in and pulled it 363 feet.

Following that, Andrés Giménez immediately grounded then, then Ben Gamel walked to set up a potential go-ahead scenario. César Hernández had the decency to put up a fight before popping out to end the game.

Shane Bieber may have not come out of the gate with his best command (see: embedded tweet above), but his movement was never in doubt. His curveball had bite to it from the start and he eventually wrangled it back under its usual control. His four-seamer — when it wasn’t being launched in a snowstorm by Cabrera — had some nice movement on it up and out of the zone.

Bieber ultimately finished the game with 12 strikeouts and the three earned runs he gave up early. He only lasted six innings, though, mostly due to the high pitch counts that come along with strikeout everybody out.

We also got to see the 2021 incarnation of Bryan Shaw, and he looked encouragingly similar to the Good Shaw of old. He faced four batters, walked one, and struck another out. James Karinchak finished with the same line, just a big flashier, of course.

The good news is baseball has started. The 2021 season is underway, and there are 161 games left to figure out how to hit the ball. Let’s hope they can do it in time.