BALTIMORE -- After getting shut out by 13 runs in the last two games, Indians manager Terry Francona said it was harder to turn the page as he attempted to fall asleep Saturday night. But he said the minute he got back to the clubhouse Sunday morning, it wasn’t a challenge putting the losses in the rearview mirror, as he put all his energy into figuring out a way to turn the momentum back in his team’s favor.
Shane Bieber took care of the rest.
The 24-year-old’s dominance against Baltimore continued Sunday, as Bieber tossed eight scoreless frames in the Indians’ 2-0 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards. It was the Indians’ eighth shutout of the season, which is second-most in the Majors behind the Dodgers (10).
“I mean, the way we were scoring runs this weekend, they were at a premium,” Francona said. “He went out and from pitch one, pitched his [rear] off and he needed to or we’re either still playing or lost because runs were hard to come by for us.”
Bieber has made two career starts against the O’s, both coming this season. In his first outing on May 19, the righty recorded his first career complete game and shutout, allowing just five hits with no walks and 15 strikeouts. It was a performance that seemed nearly impossible to top, but Bieber did his best to outshine himself in his second start against the Orioles, allowing just three hits with no walks and 11 strikeouts. On top of his 0.00 career ERA against Baltimore in 17 innings, he’s held the Orioles offense to a .140 average (8-for-57).
“We have had a really hard time with him,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s really impressive. A couple really good breaking balls we had a tough time staying off of, a fastball he locates that has a lot of hop to it. He knows how to pitch. We didn’t square many balls in the two games he pitched. Tip your hat to a guy that really threw the ball well.”
The 11 Ks marked his fourth double-digit strikeout game of the season and the fifth of his career. That’s the 39th time Tribe pitchers have recorded at least 10 strikeouts this season, which is tied for fifth-most in the Majors.
“I think it still is, especially because of [Trevor Bauer],” Bieber said, when asked if striking out 10-plus batters was important. “It’s a huge deal to him, so it kind of reflects onto everybody else, too. It’s always fun, but today the main goal was just to go out there and eat up innings as much as I could and give us a chance to win.”
Bieber’s stellar start was much-needed, not only to snap the Tribe’s two-game skid, but to save the bullpen after early exits by Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac in the first two games of the series.
“Baseball’s a crazy game,” Bieber said. “Momentum can stop just like that, so just trying to go out there and collect outs and get through as many innings as I can. That’s what I was trying to do. Fortunately, we had a good game plan going in and just working with [catcher Roberto Perez]. He did a tremendous job and things worked out.”
Bieber threw 112 pitches, the second-most of his 17 starts this year. So as he walked off the mound at the end of the eighth, Francona knew he would not send his righty back out for the ninth. It was an even easier decision because closer Brad Hand, who had not pitched since Wednesday, needed work. Although he loaded the bases, Hand was able to escape the jam to secure his 23rd save of the year.
“I thought [Bieber] had done a great job and there wasn’t any fight,” Francona said. “We really needed to pitch Hand. … Now, my heart was kind of in my throat there for a little bit, but I thought it was the right thing to do.”