CLEVELAND -- The Rays had all kinds of trouble with Shane Bieber on Friday afternoon. He held them hitless for four innings and only gave up three total hits in a 7 2/3-inning gem at Progressive Field. But the Guardians’ Game 1 starter may have a new nemesis, and he came through for Tampa Bay in the sixth.
Jose Siri homered to right-center field off Bieber with one out in the top of the sixth, putting the Rays ahead by one in a tense pitchers’ duel between Bieber and Shane McClanahan to begin the American League Wild Card Series. That lead would not last, however, as Cleveland rallied to win, 2-1, thanks to José Ramírez's two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.
“I was just trying to keep a normal plan,” Siri said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “I was trying to keep the barrel on the ball, trying to connect out in front, and I know in the past I've hit an offspeed home run off him before -- so I've been seeing him pretty well.”
And that’s not a claim many hitters can make.
Siri only hit seven home runs in the regular season, including four in 56 games after joining Tampa Bay from Houston in a three-team Trade Deadline deal. But Friday’s solo shot was his second homer this year off Bieber, who gave up just 18 long balls over 200 innings during the regular season. There are now only two players to take Bieber deep multiple times this season: Siri and Angels outfielder Taylor Ward.
“I thought Siri put a couple good swings on the ball today,” Bieber said, “and that second one looked like that was exactly what he was trying to do. [He] got a pitch and drove it to right-center and hit it well.
“[I] just tried to get back and attack right away, and [I] was able to get out of that inning, limit the damage. ... For our offense to go out there and pick me up right away -- that was huge.”
Siri also homered off Bieber in the fourth inning of the Rays’ 6-5 win over the Guardians on Sept. 27 at Progressive Field. That night, Siri hit a cutter down and over the plate. On Friday, he connected with a fastball away and smashed it a projected 403 feet at 107.5 mph, according to Statcast, for his first career opposite-field homer.
Aside from Siri, the Rays didn’t produce a lot of loud contact against Bieber. They generated only five hard-hit balls (with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more), and Siri was responsible for two of them.
“Seeing him before definitely helps, definitely with the confidence,” Siri said. “You can see what his pitches have done, and you recognize what it has done from the last time you've seen him.”