Say what you want about the Cleveland Guardians offense, but they know how to score in the first inning. Not a lot, and not very often, but dangit they’ll get some hits there.
They did it again tonight, starting the game with back-to-back hits from Steven Kwan and Amed Rosario, capped off by a sacrifice fly from José Ramírez and two easy outs from Josh’s Bell and Naylor. They wouldn’t get any more scoring until the bottom of the eighth, but luckily they didn’t need it with how Shane Bieber utterly dominated the Tigers.
Bieber finished the day with a game-high 19 whiffs, leaning heavily into his slider (31 times), cutter (26), and four-seamer (23) to get the job done. He also threw in 11 changeups and 10 of his patented knuckle curves, the latter of which induced five swings and each one was a whiff. Some were right along the bottom of the zone, some were buried in the dirt, all were missed.
Here are all the misses in chart form:
And here’s one particularly nasty one caught by Pitching Ninja that made a man buckle so hard his legs turned into Tommy Pickles.
Shane Bieber, Filthy 82mph Knuckle Curve. pic.twitter.com/Rdk4zxp0qr— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 9, 2023
Outside of Bieber’s performance one impressive Myles Straw catch, there uh, wasn’t much else to this game if we’re being honest. The offense was once again shut down by a guy that shouldn’t have shut them down. James Karinchak was walked two straight but thankfully was given a clean inning to work with and — with the help of Sam Hentges — got out unscathed. But the Tigers couldn’t hit, (most of) the Guards couldn’t hit, and the game ended way tighter than it needed to.
The other story outside of Bieber is, of course, Amed Rosario. The Tigers’ plan of “throw him a bunch of fastballs over the middle of the plate” seems bad to me, but he also hit one of the four sliders they attacked him with — not coincidentally, it was also a pitch hit over the middle of the plate. Regardless, you don’t have a good season/career without cracking a few bad pitches, and Rosario and he absolutely crushed some tonight — all four of his hits were over 97 mph.
With the win, the Guardians have a chance tomorrow to win back-to-back series for the first time since 1987. I checked, just trust me.