The Indians were up by 10 runs over the Tigers with two outs in the eighth inning on Thursday when starter Shane Bieber walked Derek Hill in an eight-pitch plate appearance that bumped his pitch count to 114 pitches. When acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. took his trip to the mound, he gave Bieber the option to stay in the game.
The front-runner for the American League Cy Young Award chose to remain on the rubber to face Willi Castro, but after falling behind in the count, Castro took a 90.9 mph cutter deep to right field for a three-run homer, spoiling Bieber’s scoreless night in the Indians' 10-3 victory.
“[Alomar] gave me the option,” Bieber said. “He said, ‘If I let you go get this guy, you’re going to be up around 120 [pitches], so you better get him.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Obviously, it didn’t play out that way.”
Alomar said that he and pitching coach Carl Willis put a 110-115 pitch limit on Bieber, as they prepared for their starter to go deep into the game after he cruised through the first seven frames, giving up just two hits. And if there was ever a time to allow Bieber to complete eight frames, Alomar said it's best to try in a blowout.
“People think when the game is close is when you get the chance,” Alomar said. “When the game is close, you want to give your pitcher a win; you don’t want him to lose the game. When the game is open, it’s an opportunity for you to go back out there and stay in the game and if you give up a home run, you’re not going to lose the game.
“He wanted to pitch. ... [Castro] hit the home run there. No big deal.”
Even with the one blemish on the night, Bieber still logged another quality start, permitting those three runs on four hits through 7 2/3 frames with two walks and 10 strikeouts.
The 25-year-old has now recorded at least eight strikeouts in each of his 11 starts this season, which is the second-longest streak of at least eight K’s to start a season, trailing just Randy Johnson, who had a streak of 15 consecutive starts in 2000. The effort helped the Indians snap an eight-game losing streak, which had been the longest skid the team endured since June 2013.
“Baseball is baseball. It’s frustrating, this and that,” Bieber said of giving up the long ball. “But at the end of the day, we righted this ship today and that’s most important. We went out there and got the 'W' and it’s on to the next one now.”