TORONTO -- For six quick and hitless innings on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, Indians starter Shane Bieber set himself up for a run at history. The Blue Jays finally broke up the 24-year-old’s no-hit bid in the seventh, but Bieber’s complete-game one-hitter stands as one of the best nights
TORONTO -- For six quick and hitless innings on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, Indians starter Shane Bieber set himself up for a run at history. The Blue Jays finally broke up the 24-year-old’s no-hit bid in the seventh, but Bieber’s complete-game one-hitter stands as one of the best nights of his young career.
• Box score
The timing couldn’t have been any better, either. With the spotlight shining directly on opposing starter Marcus Stroman ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline, Bieber countered with his best, too. The Indians grinded out a 4-0 win that was much closer for most of the game.
“He just pitched like a veteran. He’s maturing so fast,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s barely got a year under his belt. It seems like he’s going to get better and better. It’s fun to watch.”
Bieber finished with just the lone hit and one walk allowed over 102 pitches. His 10 strikeouts bring him to 166 over 133 1/3 innings this season, while his ERA dropped to 3.44. He spotted his fastball well all night, which set Bieber up to use his slider effectively later in counts. That pitch generated seven swinging strikes and some very weak contact, which was a theme all night for Bieber. He held the Blue Jays without an exit velocity harder than 100.1 mph, according to Statcast.
Coming out of his warmup prior to the game, though, Bieber wasn’t really expecting to flirt with a no-hitter. Some nights, he can sense that he’s got his best stuff the moment he steps on the mound. Wednesday was not one of those nights.
“It was kind of like, ‘Oh, crap’ in the bullpen,” Bieber said. “I know that everybody says that. A lot of no-hitters, guys say that they were shaky in the bullpen or whatever it may be, but that was kind of the case tonight. Kevin [Plawecki] and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s just find a way to get it done.’”
Evidently, they found the way.
The only early blemish for Bieber was a walk to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to open the second inning. But he quickly forced Justin Smoak to ground into a double play and faced the minimum through the first six innings. The only hit allowed -- a leadoff double to Eric Sogard in the seventh -- was also stranded after Bieber struck out Smoak with runners on the corners.
“It was a curveball down and in,” Bieber recalled. “He kind of dropped his hands. He’s a good hitter. I would have liked that a little more away. I thought it was a decently executed pitch. He’s just a good hitter, and he took advantage of it.”
Cleveland broke through in the fifth inning and provided run support for Bieber on a Plawecki double that brought home Greg Allen from first base. Allen recorded three hits and drove in a run. He’s been scorching hot since returning from Triple-A earlier in July, but his slide into home was the offensive play of the game for Cleveland. Allen took a wide turn around third base at full speed and slid to the right of home, tucking his left arm just out of danger before reaching in at the last second to touch the plate.
“He’s helped us win some games,” Francona said. “He’s always ready. He has swung the bat much more like we thought he could this third time here.”