Frankly, whenever Shane Bieber returns from his shoulder injury it’s going to be difficult to find a place for him with a beast like J.C. Mejía on the mound every fifth day. Being that they are undefeated since his injury, it raises the question: Is Cleveland a better team without him?
Maybe not, but tonight they proved that they didn’t need no Shane Bieber on his off day to beat the worst team in the American League. That’s progress.
Mejía desperately needed a bounceback from his last outing — almost as much as Cleveland needed it. He made it out of the first inning this time around, then the second, then the third, and also the fourth. It wasn’t until four innings and two earned runs that he was pulled. He struck out three and walked one in that span, setting up the bullpen to carry the load for the final five innings.
In fact, one could say that Mejía cruised through his first three innings. Cedric Mullins singled in the first, but that’s to be expected. A single is a favorable outcome against him at this point. Mejía gave up a single in the second and a single in the third as well and both were erased with double plays.
Trouble didn’t find Mejía until the fourth when he walked the lead-off batter and saw a ball from Anthony Santander sail over his head for a double. He then induced three straight outs to close out the inning, but two groundouts also resulted in two runs.
Mejía primarily relied on his sinker, throwing it 30 times and inducing four called strikes and no whiffs. He had some more swing-and-miss luck with his slider, which he threw eight times and was whiffed on all three times it was swung at.
Maybe the most impressive thing for Cleveland’s offense came in the first inning. No, not Cesar Hernandez’s lead-off single, Amed Rosario’s speed on the bases, or José Ramírez’s RBI single. I’m talking about Bobby Bradley going oppo.
The slugger took an 0-2 changeup on the outer edge of the plate and poked it into left field for an RBI single of his own. This is the kind of pitch that 2019 Bobby Bradley would swing out of his shoes to try and crush and score two runs instead of one (Jake Bauers would have watched it go for strike three if you were wondering). This time, though, he stayed back on the pitch and took it the other way to plate José Ramírez. The most ridiculous thing about it? It was still the second hardest-hit ball of the game at 107.3 mph.
Harold Ramirez immediately hit into a double play and ruined the moment, but that’s neither here nor there.
Cleveland’s loud first inning was followed by silence until the sixth when Cesar Hernandez reached on an error and José Ramírez doubled him home two batters later. This was good, because it extended Cleveland’s lead to 4-2 at the time and prevented an RBI single from Maikel Franco in the top of the seventh from mattering.
Nick Sandlin was excellent out of the bullpen, recording three strikeouts and keeping all five of the batters he faced — including National Menace Cedric Mullins — off base. Emmanuel Clase looked good closing out the game as well. It was the two in the middle who made this nerve-wracking for everyone. Bryan Shaw walked two and allowed a hit before finally getting out of the inning, and James Karinchak oscillated between wild and firing bullets as he struck out three after walking — you guessed it — Cedric Mullins to lead off the inning.
In the end, Cleveland won, 4-3, and moved one day closer to Shane Bieber being off the injured list.