I am officially concerned about Shane Bieber.
The Cleveland Guardians’ ace was anything but in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, giving up seven runs in the team’s 8-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
It has been well documented that Bieber’s fastball velocity has been down in comparison to previous years. After averaging 94.1 mph in 2020 and 92.8 mph in 2021, he is averaging 90.8 mph on his fastball this season. Against the Blue Jays, Bieber’s four-seamer averaged 89.9 mph. His command was also off, issuing three walks and nearly throwing more balls (33) than strikes (38).
Bieber retired the first five batters he faced before he started to struggle locating his fastball and slider with two outs in the second inning. He gave up a double to Matt Chapman before issuing back-to-back walks to Santiago Espinal and Alejandro Kirk on a combined nine pitches. With the bases loaded, Raimel Tapia flared an RBI single to left field to plate a pair of runs. George Springer made it a 4-0 lead for Toronto with a two-run double on a first-pitch slider.
After posting a scoreless frame in the third inning, Bieber started pitching batting practice in the fourth. He recorded one out and gave up five hits and three runs before manager Terry Francona pulled the plug. Bieber’s final line: 3.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB. The most alarming detail: It was the first start of Bieber’s big league career without at least one strikeout to his name.
For the Blue Jays, starting pitcher Kevin Gausman was as good as advertised. Cleveland’s lineup was able to string together a handful of hits against him, but his four-pitch arsenal kept them from generating much offense all afternoon. He surrendered six hits, one walk, and one earned run over 6.1 innings of work, striking out five. Franmil Reyes’ four-pitch walk in the fourth inning was the first free pass Gausman has allowed this season.
Offensively, the top of the Guardians’ order contributed the most in what was a lackluster showing. Myles Straw was for 2-for-3 with a walk and scored two of the team’s three runs. Steven Kwan scored the only other run on a sac fly from Josh Naylor in the eighth inning.