Cleveland comeback picks up Bieber (9 K's)

Ramírez, Naylor homers cap rally, move Indians into 3-way tie for first place

May 6th, 2021

Indians ace wasn’t at his best on Wednesday night.

In Cleveland’s 5-4 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, the 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner struck out nine and grinded through six innings, while yielding four runs for the first time since he allowed five against the White Sox on Sept. 25, 2019. Kansas City’s 11 tracked hard-hit balls were the most against him since he allowed 12 to the Twins on Sept. 15, 2019.

Fortunately for Bieber, his teammates were able to pick up the slack.

Down 4-3 in the top of the eighth, Indians third baseman José Ramírez tied the game with a blast to right field. An inning later, right fielder matched Ramírez with a solo shot to put Cleveland ahead, and despite having just three fewer throwing errors than hits on the night, the Indians scored five unanswered runs over the last four innings to secure the series victory.

“It's one of those games [that is] obviously a lot easier to swallow as a win than with a loss, so first and foremost, got to just commend the entire team,” Bieber said. “Top to bottom, lineup, bullpen, defense, catching -- everybody. It was an awesome win to be a part of, and I'm thankful for it.”

The comeback win was the club’s 11th of the season. The victory also pulled Cleveland into a three-way tie for first place in the AL Central with Kansas City and the White Sox, each team at 16-13.

“It's just a 'never give up' attitude here, man,” Naylor said. “We love this game, we love to have fun, we love to play baseball to the hardest of our ability, and it goes back to everyone in this lineup, everyone on this team, pitchers included.

“It's a hard-working team, never give up to the end. That's why I feel like we've had a lot of comeback wins. We're here to play to the last out, and we're not going to stop running hard or stop diving on the field or whatever the case is until that last out, because anything could happen.”

Bieber managed to extend his streak of games with at least eight strikeouts to 19, but he nearly didn’t get the chance to do so. He had seven after five innings, but with his pitch count rising and a four-run deficit on the scoreboard, manager Terry Francona was ready to turn to the bullpen. Francona told Bieber, however, that if they could score a couple of runs in the top of the sixth, Bieber would go back out for the bottom half.

What ensued was an inning that saw Ramírez hit by a pitch, Kansas City starter Brady Singer called for a balk and then ejected along with manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred, all leading to three Cleveland runs. Bieber then pitched a perfect bottom of the sixth to keep his team within one run.

“There was a chance there that I wasn't going to go out for the sixth, but the boys picked me up big time in the top of the sixth,” Bieber said. “I was able to go back out there and kind of finish the outing off on a good note.”

As momentum began to shift in the Indians’ favor, Naylor approached his starting pitcher in the dugout. Seeing as this had been a come-from-behind team for much of the first month, Naylor told Bieber that Cleveland was going to win the game.

“And I believed him 100 percent,” Bieber said.

Ramírez’s solo home run -- the 19th of his career against Kansas City -- off a fastball continued that momentum and tied the game in the eighth. Naylor said postgame that, as a younger player, he tries to learn from Ramírez every day. Based on his ninth-inning at-bat, Naylor is a pretty quick study.

On a four-seam fastball from Wade Davis, Naylor drove the ball to the stands in right field to give his team the lead and, ultimately, the game.

Cleveland relievers Bryan Shaw, Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak combined to strike out six over three scoreless innings to secure the victory, putting Cleveland in position to sweep the four-game series on Thursday afternoon.

“[Coming from behind] is a hard way to win, and I don't know if we want to draw this up all the time, but it's better than losing,” Francona said. “Man, they keep playing, and there's something to be said for that.”