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Bieber takes charge, quiets hot Cards in finale

Rookie righty fires six strong innings, collects 1st MLB hit
MLB.com @MLBastian

ST. LOUIS -- After the baseball dropped deep into the left-center field gap, Shane Bieber rounded first and punched the gas. The Indians pitcher sprinted hard into second, sliding into the bag with a double as his teammates laughed and cheered inside Busch Stadium's visitors' dugout.

Tribe fans had to be wondering: Is there anything this kid can't do?

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ST. LOUIS -- After the baseball dropped deep into the left-center field gap, Shane Bieber rounded first and punched the gas. The Indians pitcher sprinted hard into second, sliding into the bag with a double as his teammates laughed and cheered inside Busch Stadium's visitors' dugout.

Tribe fans had to be wondering: Is there anything this kid can't do?

View Full Game Coverage

In a 5-1 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday night, Bieber continued to impress with his poise on the mound. The right-hander logged six strong innings for the American League Central-leading Indians, limiting St. Louis to one run and helping his club salvage a win in the three-game Interleague series.

"He seems to pitch more maturely than his age would indicate," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He starts throwing his breaking ball, gets some chase, doesn't panic, game doesn't speed up. That's a really nice trait for anybody, let alone a kid who has four Major League starts."

Bieber also entertained with his bat.

With one out in the fourth inning, Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty fired a first-pitch fastball over the heart of the plate and Bieber did not miss. The pitcher drove the heater and legged out a double for his first career Major League hit. The ball was thrown in to the Cleveland dugout, where fellow pitcher Trevor Bauer pretended to throw it into the stands before putting it away for safe keeping.

After the win, Bieber still had his doubts that the baseball in his locker was indeed the one he hit for the double.

"I'm surprised I got it back, because I saw they threw it to Trevor," Bieber said with a laugh. "So I don't know if that's the actual ball. I'll probably give it to my parents and let them decide what to do, and then hopefully there's many more to come."

Bieber did not come around to score, but his true responsibilities lie on the hill, not in the batter's box.

The 23-year-old Bieber scattered six hits, ended with five strikeouts and issued one walk, which came back to bite him. After issuing a four-pitch free pass to the hot-hitting Matt Carpenter in the third inning, Jose Martinez later pushed a pitch into right for a one-out RBI single. By that point, the Indians' offense had already built a lead that would hold.

Video: CLE@STL: Bieber strikes out Carpenter swinging

"He was fun tonight, catching him," Indians catcher Roberto Perez. "Especially for me, being behind the plate with him for the first time. It was fun. He pumped the fastball. He's got command of all his pitches. He goes after hitters."

Flaherty was chased after allowing four runs in four innings, in which Edwin Encarnacion hit his 19th homer of the season and Lonnie Chisenhall made it back-to-back shots with his first of the year.

Video: CLE@STL: Encarnacion, Chisenhall rip back-to-back HRs

Jason Kipnis and Tyler Naquin also contributed run-scoring hits in the win, which improved Cleveland's record to 44-35 on the season.

Video: CLE@STL: Naquin lines an RBI double to left in 6th

With his performance, Bieber improved to 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA through four career starts for Cleveland. Since rejoining the rotation on June 17 following an injury to starter Carlos Carrasco, Bieber has posted a 0.96 ERA with 21 strikeouts and three walks in 18 2/3 innings in three turns for the Tribe.

"On a night like tonight, it was a little more humid," Bieber said. "The adversity, there were some things that you're not totally used to. So just to be able to go out there and try to throw as many innings as possible and give the team a chance to win, I'm happy with it."

Perez was more than impressed.

"He's very confident right now," said the catcher. "Since he came up, he's had great outings. He's taking his confidence to another level. To be able to do that in your first year, that's how mature he is. Hopefully he keeps doing that for us."

Video: CLE@STL: Chisenhall, Francona, Bieber discuss 5-1 win

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Great escape: The Cardinals went to the opposite field off Bieber on five of their first six hits, including a leadoff double by Carpenter and a one-out single by Martinez in the fifth. That put runners on the corners with one out against the rookie pitcher, who proceeded to strike out Marcell Ozuna before escaping with a fielder's choice groundout off the bat of Yadier Molina. That preserved a 4-1 lead for the Tribe.

Video: CLE@STL: Bieber induces groundout to get out of jam

"I was surprised by the way he settled himself after pressure," Perez said. "Guy on first base and third base, less than two outs, he came back and struck out Ozuna and got Yadi to ground out. That was huge."

Back-to-back bombs: Encarnacion and Chisenhall greeted Flaherty with consecutive home runs -- the first to deep left and the next down the right-field line -- to begin the second inning. For Encarnacion, it marked his third home run in five games. For Chisenhall, it snapped a 47-game home run drought dating back to July 7 of last season.

HE SAID IT
"I got down to first, and I was like, 'Man, that was a long way. I don't know if I can make it to two.' No, I saw they were still running, and [Ozuna] just kind of continued to carry that ball after he fielded it off the ground, so I thought, 'Hey, there's a chance.' [First-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr.] told me to take two, so I went for it. I tried to get the pants dirty a little, look athletic for once. It was fun." --Bieber, on his double

Video: CLE@STL: Bieber doubles for his first big league hit

"He didn't seem all flustered. He just likes to play baseball and took a pretty nice swing. After the first at-bat, he was like, 'I was on him.' [I was like], 'OK. If you say so.'" --Francona, on Bieber's hitting

SOUND SMART
Prior to Bieber's hit on Wednesday, the last Indians pitcher to double for his first career MLB hit was Jake Westbrook, who did so on June 17, 2006, against the Brewers. Cleveland pitchers Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin both hit a double in Interleague Play during the 2016 season.

UP NEXT
Following an off-day on Thursday, right-hander Trevor Bauer (7-5, 2.44 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Indians in a 10:05 p.m. ET tilt against the A's on Friday at the Coliseum. Bauer has a 2.36 ERA with 72 strikeouts vs. 17 walks in 53 1/3 innings (eight starts) on the road this year. Oakland will counter with righty Paul Blackburn (1-2, 8.83 ERA).

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Shane Bieber