Bieber 'in great company' amid dominant run

Righty earns 5th win with 11 K's as Indians take 6th straight

August 21st, 2020

Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Sam McDowell and Bob Feller. These are the types of names has grown accustomed to seeing his name beside over the last few weeks.

Yet again, Bieber proved why he has claimed the title of the Tribe’s ace, turning in another six scoreless frames in the Indians’ 2-0 victory over the Pirates on Thursday night at PNC Park to secure the three-game sweep. Cleveland’s winning streak extended to a season-best six games.

Strikeouts have been the storyline every time the 25-year-old has taken the mound this season, and that didn’t change in the series finale against Pittsburgh. Bieber racked up another 11 K’s, bringing his 2020 total to 65. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s now tied for the fourth-most strikeouts with Schilling (1998) by a pitcher in his first six starts of a season since 1893, when the mound moved to its current distance. He trails just Ryan (1978, 71) and Martinez (2000, 67; '01, 66).

“His composure, his demeanor, he’s very calm,” Indians temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “He knows what he has to do. Even the days he struggles with his command, he finds ways to throw strikes and not walk people and keep the ball in the ballpark. So he’s a very composed young man, and he’s showing it right now. He keeps the ball down, spins when he needs to spin, he knows the scouting report really well and he’s executing. I mean, he’s in great company. That’s impressive.”

Bieber has been listed alongside some of the best hurlers to ever play the game, but he’s also made his mark in the Indians’ history books. Thursday marked his fourth double-digit strikeout game of the year. The only other pitchers in franchise history to do the same in the first six starts of a season were McDowell (1966, ‘68, '70) and Feller (‘46), according to Elias.

In simpler terms: Bieber is doing pretty well.

Pittsburgh’s lineup made him work, though, especially in the sixth inning. The Pirates put runners on the corners with no outs, as Bieber’s pitch count hit 87 pitches. But like he has all season long, the right-hander settled in to punch out the next two batters before escaping the jam with a flyout to right. With runners in scoring position, hitters have gone 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts against Bieber.

“At that point, it's a 1-0 game,” Bieber said. “I was pitching for the strikeout until we got to one out and then was hoping for maybe an early ground-ball double play. … But once I got to two strikes, [I] was able to put him away with another slider. And then get that last guy out. That was exciting stuff. I was just trying to focus on executing pitches, and fortunately I was able to do that.”

Bieber didn’t run into too much other trouble on the night, with three of the five at-bats with runners in scoring position coming in his final frame. Making it out of the game unscathed, he maintained his .000 opposing batting average with runners in scoring position, as hitters have gone 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts in those situations so far this season.

"The guy’s just amazing on the mound,” catcher said. “I just wanted to make him feel as comfortable on the mound and throwing the ball in the dirt if he has to. He has so many different things. It was the right pitch, because he has so many. It’s hard calling the game for him because every single one is good and you’re like, ‘OK, what am I thinking for the next pitch?’ He came in and shoved it that [sixth] inning, and it was great.”

“He did [to us] what he does to everybody else in the league,” Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings said. “He just has a bunch of pitches. They’re all really good pitches. He has really good command. When you have good command and good stuff, it makes for one of the best pitchers in the league, if not the best. He’s just really good.”