Bieber, Tribe overcome late by Rays

September 1st, 2018

CLEVELAND -- Indians rookie Shane Bieber came out with early focus against the Rays on Saturday.

The right-hander confidently navigated through Tampa Bay's lineup in the first five innings, allowing more than one baserunner just once in that span. But the starter was unable to finish strong after a string of hits in the sixth knocked Bieber (8-3) from action and paved the way for a 5-3 Rays win at Progressive Field.

Cleveland got on the board first, when led off the second inning by reaching second on a two-base error by . That opened the door for back-to-back run-scoring doubles for and .

Buoyed by the early lead, Bieber cruised through his first five frames. He allowed three consecutive hits to start the sixth, including back-to-back hits from Brandon Lowe and Joey Wendle, followed by a two-run double from Duffy to get the Rays on the board. Bieber retired before yielding a run-scoring double to Tommy Pham that put Tampa Bay up, 3-2, and forced Cleveland to turn to its bullpen. entered to mitigate the damage, but allowed an RBI single to .

Bieber was charged with the run, and ended his night after nine hits, four runs and four strikeouts across 5 1/3 innings. He did not walk a batter for the fourth consecutive start. Most of Bieber's struggles came during the third trip through the Rays' lineup, a pattern manager Terry Francona has noticed during Bieber's recent starts.

"It's happened in a couple starts," Francona said. "He'll go and command so well, and then for about four or five hitters, all of a sudden he just kind of wanders toward the middle [of the plate]. He misses over the plate. He does such a good job working ahead of the count, then it's like early in the count it was catching too much of the plate."

Rays ace (17-5) allowed a pair of runs in the second, but was otherwise effective. He lasted 6 2/3 frames and allowed eight hits and two runs (one earned), striking out nine while issuing one walk. He retired 10 in a row until yielding a single to in the seventh, the final batter he faced.

"I thought we had some really good at-bats early just to get what we did," Francona said of facing Snell, a potential American League Cy Young Award candidate. "His stuff was phenomenal. Velocity, breaking ball, changeup. He's got the whole package."

Bieber entered Saturday having allowed 10 runs in his past 16 innings (three starts). In that stretch, Bieber agreed he needs to be better later in games to better keep games in reach.

"I think it's a mixture of them seeing me two, three times already, or me just not executing pitches the way I want to," he said. "So that's never gonna work, especially against a team like [the Rays] that can swing the bat pretty well. But really against anybody, I just need to be better."

Between starts with the Tribe and Triple-A Columbus, Bieber has thrown 164 2/3 innings in 2018, closing in on the 173 1/3 frames thrown last year in the Minors. Francona is sure his young pitcher is continuing to grow and with each start, Bieber will continue to explore uncharted territory.

"I think every time he pitches, he learns, because he's such a conscientious kid," Francona said. "I also think it's September, and you get to that 80-pitch mark, it's just something we need to keep an eye on."

Bieber agrees.

"I'm gonna stay positive because I know this is going to be a good learning experience. It's something a lot of guys go through."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Big play at the plate: Gomes was thrown out at home in the second inning while attempting to score on a line-drive single from to pad the Tribe's 2-0 lead. The catcher was cut down on a laser home from the center fielder, Kiermaier, who later left with lower back spasms. Kiermaier's 100.6-mph throw was the second-hardest throw on an outfield assist recorded by Statcast™ this season.

Kipnis comes through: pinch-hit for Guyer in the bottom of the ninth and unloaded a 367-foot solo homer to lead off the inning and bring the Tribe within two. The homer marked Kipnis' 14th of the season and his third in the past seven days. Entering Saturday, the seven-year veteran had hit .500/.550/1.000 over his past five games, going 9-for-18 with three doubles, eight RBIs, two walks and six runs scored.

Francona thought the homer was especially significant for Kipnis, who will likely be moved to the outfield with the addition of infielder Josh Donaldson.

"We talked about it before the game, getting Donaldson is good for us and I don't know where Kip ends up, but I guarantee every time he hits, I'll be rooting for him like I always do," Francona said. "He can help us. We don't think otherwise."

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Bieber is averaging 1.59 walks per nine innings, lowest among rookie pitchers this season and second all-time among Indians rookies behind Tom Brennan's 0.97 walks in 1982.

UP NEXT

Right-hander (16-7, 3.38 ERA) will start the series finale in a 4:10 p.m. ET first pitch Sunday at Progressive Field. Carrasco posted a 1-0 record against the Rays in two starts last season, allowing 10 runs over nine innings. (3-2, 3.73) will get the ball for Tampa Bay.