'Bad decision' spoils scoreless outing for Bieber

Guards' starter has defensive miscue, allows one run in 5 2/3 innings vs. Boston

June 7th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- Shane Bieber had been counting down the minutes until he could toe the rubber again.

The Guardians’ starter had a sour taste left in his mouth after giving up seven runs over four innings in Baltimore. He was confident he’d bounce back the next time he was handed the ball and he was right, considering he allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s 5-4 Guardians loss to the Red Sox at Progressive Field.

“I think that’s what we’re always setting out to do,” Bieber said. “Obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted, but that’s gonna happen over the course of a long season.”

Bieber has found ways to adapt to changes every year of his career. He’s added pitches, he’s relied on pinpoint location when his velocity started to dip, and now, he’s getting outs despite his strikeout rate plummeting. As valuable as he makes himself to Cleveland despite these hurdles, he may be even more valuable on the trade market.

Good starting pitchers are always a hot commodity at the Trade Deadline. And when contending teams (like the Rangers) face devastating injury news (like Jacob deGrom having to undergo Tommy John surgery), these types of hurlers become even more desired. As much as the Guardians would probably like to avoid being in the rumor mill over the next month, it’ll be impossible to keep Bieber’s name out of the whispers.

Bieber has a year and a half remaining of team control. The Guardians have been in talks with him over the past few offseasons regarding a potential contract extension. Since nothing has happened, it’s safe to assume a trade will be the way the club has to go at some point. The more control he has left, the bigger the return package would be, in theory. He can expect all eyes to be on him over the next few weeks.

Aside from his clunky outing in Baltimore, Bieber’s been consistent yet again this season. Maybe he’s lost some of the dominance he’s flashed in the past, considering some peripheral numbers are trending in the wrong directions. The expected batting average of his opponents in 2022 was .245. Entering Tuesday, it was .290 for ‘23. His strikeout rate dropped from 25 to 16.9 percent. His expected ERA jumped from 3.51 to 4.89.

And yet, he’s still more than effective.

Bieber’s ERA sits at 3.57. If you take out the Baltimore start, it would be 2.93. He was close to having a scoreless performance on Tuesday, but his own mistake on defense cost him in the sixth. 

Masataka Yoshida led off the inning with a double. Justin Turner followed with a ground ball back to the mound. Instead of getting the out at first, Bieber tried to get Yoshida, who didn’t have an overwhelmingly big lead, out at second. Yoshida dove back to the bag, as Bieber’s throw trickled into center field.

“I think he probably realized the minute he let that go that’s probably where he shouldn’t have gone,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said.

Turner reached on a fielder’s choice. After a strikeout and a flyout, the inning could’ve, in theory, been over. Instead, the next batter, Kiké Hernández, singled to get the Red Sox on the board.

“It was a bad decision,” Bieber said. “I feel like I try to hang my hat on good decisions, but that was not one of them. I would like that back. I cost myself, cost my team a run there, having to get ultimately four outs in that inning.”

Regardless of one bad choice, Bieber still had the bounce-back outing he needed after his time at Camden Yards. But as each day continues to pass, the team will need to evaluate its situation far beyond how Bieber threw the ball on a given night. The Guardians will need to figure out if it’d be worth trading their ace at the Deadline. Can they still be contenders if they’d make that move? Will they be contenders even if they don’t?

The speculation will begin now. But for Bieber, he’s going to focus on being just as effective every time he’s handed the ball.

“It could’ve and should’ve been better [on Tuesday] and not as tight of a game going into later innings, but it is what it is,” Bieber said. “We’ll bounce back tomorrow, for sure.”