Short but still sweet: Bieber's accolades grow

Righty fans 10 in 5 innings, joining elite company with 94 K's through first 9 starts

September 6th, 2020

CLEVELAND -- ’s scoreless-innings streak may have been snapped at 14 and he may not have reached the sixth inning for the first time this year, but in typical Bieber fashion, he still fanned 10 batters and added his name to another Top 10 list in the Major League Baseball history books.

Bieber logged his 13th career double-digit strikeout game and allowed one run on five hits through five frames on 103 pitches in the Indians’ 4-1 victory over the Brewers on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. The 25-year-old has now struck out at least 10 batters in a Major League-best six of his nine starts this season. Max Scherzer has recorded the second-most double-digit strikeout games with four.

“I had to work a little bit more than I would have liked,” Bieber said, “but that's what happens when you walk a guy and then give up a couple hits in a row and had to work out of it. Fortunately, I was able to hand the ball off to the bullpen. It's nice to be able to have these guys to hand it off to and shut the game down on the back end.”

As usual, Bieber was able to rely on his full arsenal for his strikeouts, inducing four on his heater, four on his slider and two on his curve. He got off to a hot start, fanning seven of the first nine batters he faced, including five in a row from the second to third innings. The Indians’ record for most consecutive strikeouts in a game is held by Corey Kluber with seven (May 4, 2014).

Bieber may not have taken Kluber’s record, but he still joined some elite company after his 10 strikeouts against the Brewers. Through nine starts, the right-hander has now recorded 94 K's, which ranks ninth in Major League history in that span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Here’s a look at who else is on the list:

(104, 2001)
(102, 1999)
Randy Johnson (100, 2000)
Pedro Martinez (96, 2001)
(96, 1998)
(95, 2017)
Pedro Martinez (95, 2000)
Curt Schilling (95, 2002)
Shane Bieber (94, 2020)

Bieber was perfect through 3 2/3 frames, but he started to run into trouble in the fourth and fifth innings. He came out of a two-out jam with runners on the corners unscathed in the fourth by getting Orlando Arcia to ground into a fielder’s choice, and escaped a four-hit fifth inning with just one run by recording back-to-back two-out, bases-loaded strikeouts to end the frame.

“[The Brewers] made a good adjustment,” Indians temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “At the end of the day, Bieber was able to figure out ways to get out of trouble.”

Over his past three outings, Bieber has labored a bit more than he had through his first six. But clearly, the results haven’t been impacted too badly. His record stands at a perfect 7-0 with a 1.25 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings. He’s also fanned at least eight batters in each of his first nine starts, which ties the Tribe’s club record with Bob Feller.

What the 25-year-old has learned is that teams are slowly trying to make adjustments to his dominance, as the Royals were more selective than any of his previous opponents last time out and the Brewers made tweaks the second time through the order.

Entering Sunday, Bieber had held hitters to a .524 OPS in their first plate appearances against him, and a .494 OPS and a .333 OPS in their second and third PAs, respectively. Milwaukee may have been able to chip away at Bieber the second time through the order, but the righty said he’s enjoying having to figure out how to make adjustments on the fly this season to remain just as untouchable as he has all year.

“I'm learning a lot, I'm growing a lot and I'm learning how to pitch or attack in different ways,” Bieber said. “While I'd like to get a lot deeper into ballgames, I feel like that might be certain teams' approaches, trying to get my pitch count up and laying off pitches that are some good pitches that might induce swings most of the time. Gotta take it for what it's worth and keep it rolling and just look forward to the next outing and how I can get better and get deeper into the ballgame.”

Up next
Zach Plesac had gone more than three weeks since pitching in a big league game after being optioned to Lake County for violating team protocols on the road, but when he returned last Tuesday, he didn't miss a step. The right-hander had gotten off to a scorching start to the 2020 season, permitting three runs in 21 innings with 24 strikeouts and two walks. Despite the time off, his stuff looked just as sharp as it had been his first three outings, as he gave up just one run on four hits through six frames in Kansas City last time out. He'll look to continue that momentum on Monday against the same lineup, as the Royals travel to Cleveland to begin a four-game set at Progressive Field. First pitch is slated for 6:10 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV.