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Shane Bieber almost unhittable in 5-2 win over Tigers

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Bieber’s utter dominance over the Tigers continued with six no-hit innings this afternoon

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A day of milestones almost added another as Shane Bieber cruised through seven innings against the Tigers Thursday afternoon. On the way to gifting Terry Francona his 700th win as a Cleveland manager, Bieber struck out the 600th batter of his career, and he became the first to strike out 100 this season. He almost added the seventh no-hitter of the season, as well.

Bieber needed just two strikeouts to cross the century mark on the season, but he didn’t hit it until the second inning when he struck out Nico Goodrum to start the inning for his first of the day and got Akil Baddoo two batters later. By that point, Bieber had walked two and struck out two, yet he just kept slicing and dicing. He ultimately pitched six no-hit innings, which included a streak of 12 straight Tigers sat down in order.

Jonathan Schoop shut the whole thing down with a lead-off homer in the seventh, though. It might have been for the better as Bieber’s pitch count was climbing early and they would have either been left with him throwing 120+ pitches to complete the first Cleveland no-hitter in 40 years, or pulled in the eighth or ninth inning with history on the line.

Bieber was all smiles as Schoop took him deep, then went on to end the seventh inning by striking out three of the final four batters he faced. Bryan Shaw and James Karinchak took over to finish the game out and seal the 5-2 win.

The game plan that Bieber and catcher Austin Hedges brought to the game was a fascinating one. It relied on his knuckle curveball heavily, including 11 times for the first pitch of an at-bat. Bieber also had three 3-2 counts over the course of the game, and each time he turned to the curveball. All told, he threw his curve 45 times, the most of any pitch, followed by his four-seamer 32 times and his slider, cutter, and changeup for a combined 26 times.

It really didn’t matter what he threw, though — Tigers batters couldn’t touch anything. They either watched a strike go by or whiffed on 38 of the combined 77 curveballs and fastballs that Bieber threw and only put five of them in play at an average exit velocity of 87.7 mph.

Bieber got ahead early, stayed ahead, and dominated. His final pitching line on the day was a remarkable 7.0 IP, 1 HR, 1 ER, 4 BB, 12 SO.

Maybe the best news of all was that Bieber finally got some run support. It started early, with José Ramírez singling and being driven home by a Harold Ramirez double in the next at-bat. The pair teamed up to score again in the sixth when José doubled and Harold singled him home. Eddie Rosario tacked on the third and fourth runs of the game this time with a homer that brought Harold Ramirez around the bases.

Speaking of Eddie, he has seemingly found his bat now. Today was his fourth two-hit game over the last seven. The homer was his first extra-base hit he’s had in his current seven-game hitting streak, though, and hopefully a sign that he’s continuing to get hot just as Cleveland needs him most. He did also misplay a pop-up that landed between him and José Ramírez, but it certainly wasn’t the worst defensive play in baseball today. We can forgive him.

The win today puts Cleveland one game back of the White Sox, who play Baltimore later tonight. The two AL Central competitors will play a pivotal four-game series next week.

Corner Pieces

  • Owen Miller went 1-for-5 with a strikeout, but he’s had at least one hit in three of his five games so far. He doesn’t look totally overmatched (granted, against Tigers pitching), so that’s a plus. Today he hit out of the two-hole as Amed Rosario was scratched at the last minute.
  • Bieber generated 24 swings and misses today; the next closest pitcher was Matthew Boyd with 12.
  • For once, Cleveland’s hard-hit balls were falling for hits. After Jonathan Schoop’s 115.3 mph home run, Cleveland batters owned the next six hardest-hit balls on the day, and all but one (a 99.5 mph lineout) went for a hit. Three of those hard-hit balls were José Ramírez.

Wait, what?

Harold Ramirez took a ball directly on the finger in an at-bat late, and just — no. No no no no no. Ow. No.

What’s next

Eli Morgan will make his major-league debut against the Blue Jays Friday night as Vlad Guerrero Jr. and friends visit Cleveland.