CLEVELAND -- On the heels of a doubleheader, all Guardians ace Shane Bieber was focused on was eating up as many innings as possible to save his bullpen from taking on extra workloads. But Mother Nature was ready to make his job even more difficult.
Back and forth conversations with MLB regarding the status of Wednesday night’s game led to a 15-minute delay to start the series finale against the Rangers. It was then determined that it was best to play as many innings as possible before a large batch of rain would inevitably force a lengthy delay, despite the Guardians' hopes to avoid this scenario since Bieber would be limited to however many innings the weather would allow. But Cleveland was able to make the best of it, coming away with a 4-0 victory to bring its record back to .500.
Here’s what we learned about the Guardians on a soggy Wednesday night.
Bieber can still dominate
His velocity has been down all season. He took much longer to settle in on the rubber than we’ve witnessed in the past few years. But Bieber has been able to show us over the last handful of outings that he’s still … well, Bieber. And once again, he found himself in the record books.
With a strikeout of Mitch Garver in the fourth, Bieber recorded his 700th career strikeout. It took him just 93 games. That’s the second fastest to reach that milestone in the Majors since at least 1901, trailing just Yu Darvish (87 games) and tied with Dwight Gooden and Tim Lincecum. Bieber surpassed Sam McDowell as the fastest to reach the mark in club history.
“I thought he was terrific,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “Unfortunately, he couldn't keep going, which was frustrating because he was really good. Really good.”
Bieber permitted just three hits with six strikeouts in his 4 1/3 frames before the rain forced him off the field just two outs away from the contest becoming an official game. He couldn’t help but express his frustration, knowing that he wanted to pitch more innings (considering he only threw 54 pitches) to save his ‘pen and to continue the groove he found himself in. But all of that was out of his control.
“It's important to me to be able to go out there and give my best effort for as long as I can,” Bieber said. “To not be able to eat up innings was a little bit frustrating but you know, it's a team game and the guys picked up big time.”
This time, he flashed other skills than just his usual scoreless (and this time, hitless) performance. Morgan made quite the statement after waiting out a one-hour, 53-minute rain delay. As Ezequiel Duran stepped in the box with runners on first and second, Morgan wheeled around and picked off Adolis García on second base for the second out of the inning before even throwing a pitch. It marked the first time a Cleveland pitcher has picked off a runner at second base since Bert Blyleven did so on July 9, 1985, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“That drop-glove play to get the [runner] before even a pitcher was even thrown was epic,” Bieber said.
According to Morgan, it’s something he and backstop Austin Hedges drew up right before they took the field.
“[Hedges] was just like, ‘Hey, let’s pick this guy off,’” Morgan said. “So, he drew up a timing play, and [García] was sleeping like we were hoping he was.”
Resiliency is the Guardians’ middle name
The team has been tested before. It learned a lot about itself in the first few weeks of the season when it consistently was coming back from late-game deficits. The Guardians know they have a ways to go in development and sitting at a .500 record is far from the success level they want to be, but the hurdles they overcame Wednesday proved to them once again that they can deal with any adversity that’s thrown their way.
“For everybody to come out and pick up the intensity kind of right where it left off I think shows a lot about our clubhouse and how much we care,” Bieber said. “Because it's easy to sit in that rain delay and lose energy, lose momentum and then kind of just pick up the game and pretend like it's the top of the first again, but definitely didn't feel that way. That was really cool.”