clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Guardians take Game 1 with a clutch José Ramírez home run and outstanding pitching from Shane Bieber

The Battle of the Shanes concludes in favor of the Guardians

Wild Card Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians - Game One Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Shane Bieber, José Ramírez, Emmanuel Clase. If those three get it going, the Cleveland Guardians could really make a run at this. And if today was any indication, they’ve got it going.

Bieber was a savant on the mound, carrying a no-hitter through four innings and finishing with one earned run in 7.2 innings. His four-seamer came with just a bit higher velocity than his season average, but it was his slider that really allowed him to go so deep into his second-career postseason start.

Of the 23 sliders that Bieber threw, 15 were swung at, and 10 of those swings missed. For the most part, he kept the ball out of the heart of the plate, and continually expanded the zone down and away from the Rays’ many right-handed hitters. For example, here are the location of all 10 swings and misses on sliders he induced this afternoon as he had confused batters chasing all day long.

Bieber’s 1-2-3 inning first inning — in particular, the dismantling of Randy Arozarena in three pitches — should have been a sign to the Rays that they were in trouble. His only real mistake was a four-seamer that ate just a bit too much of the plate in the sixth inning and ended up in the bleachers as a 107.5-mph missile off the bat of Jose Siri.

As good as Bieber’s execution was, a lot of today’s result came from excellent game planning. I’ve talked a lot this season about how Bieber has slowly morphed into a slider-first pitcher at times, but today he relied mostly on his four-seamer (41 of his 99 pitches) and cutter (24). He had a surgical plan of attack for virtually every batter and executed it to perfection. He wasn’t afraid to go full sliders against Isaac Paredes, but he crowded the zone with fastballs against Taylor Walls. He gave Manuel Margot only one pitch that wasn’t perfectly placed on the outside edge of the zone. Wander Franco saw mostly cutters and knuckle curves.

Simply put, today was a pitching clinic by both pitchers, but Bieber did just enough to win the contest.

Well, Bieber did just enough and he had the help of one man: José Ramírez. Following a shaky-looking strikeout in the first inning, Ramírez found himself at the plate in the bottom of the sixth with a man on first — one of the very few times either team had a baserunner today. He took a really good changeup that was just a tad high and sent it even higher — 389 feet for an opposite-field home run.

Ramírez would go on to add another single in the bottom of the eighth, but nothing came of it. However, that single was his hardest-hit ball of the game at 107.6 mph; and, maybe more importantly, it was his hardest-hit ball since a 114.2 mph double on Sept. 13. He’s struggled down the stretch while everyone else around him picked up the slack, but if he has found his stroke again, it will be at just the right time.

Despite only getting two runs across, the Guardians did manage more hits (8) than strikeouts (7) as they introduced the national stage to their brand of baseball. The world got to see Shane Bieber thrive and they also got to experience the joy of seeing a grown man enter a baseball game with SpongeBob as his walk-up music.

While Terry Francona has received much-deserved criticism for batting Andrés Giménez seventh and batting Owen Miller at all, he did one thing that makes me very hopeful for his postseason gusto: he used Emmanuel Clase to get four outs.

Shane Bieber pitched into the eighth and was only pulled with two outs when a runner finally reached and Siri, who homered off of him earlier, was due for his third time up. Instead of going to an often effective but extremely volatile James Karinchak, Francona proved that he is not here to mess around. He turned to Clase, who rewarded his confidence with four clean outs and the Guardians’ first postseason win since 2017.

Cleveland’s win in Game 1 means they only need to win one of the final two games to advance to the ALDS and face the New York Yankees.