CLEVELAND -- Shane Bieber has resigned himself to reality. He might be the reigning All-Star Game MVP. He might be one of the best young starters in the big leagues and the owner of the most complete games in MLB in 2019. But occasionally -- either out of confusion or
CLEVELAND -- Shane Bieber has resigned himself to reality. He might be the reigning All-Star Game MVP. He might be one of the best young starters in the big leagues and the owner of the most complete games in MLB in 2019. But occasionally -- either out of confusion or for the sake of comedy -- somebody is going to call him “Justin.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to escape that shadow,” Bieber said with a smile.
The well-meaning people at Topps were befuddled by the Beebs, misidentifying him as “Justin” in a Stadium Club card that Bieber tweeted about over the weekend. But after having a good laugh about the harmless typo, Bieber went out Sunday and befuddled the Angels’ batters for nine strong innings in a 6-2 win at Progressive Field.
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It was Bieber’s third complete game of the season -- the most by any pitcher in a single year since Ervin Santana and teammate Corey Kluber had five in 2017. He also became the second fastest Indians pitcher to reach 300 career strikeouts (44 games total, four shy of Herb Score’s mark from 1956).
That’s how you make a name for yourself.
“It’s kind of like Kluber,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “When he hits a certain point in the season, he holds it. Bieber has those trends and characteristics because of his hard work. I think you can go back six or seven years ago, and everything I said about Kluber, probably just put in Bieber’s name and it would be true, which is a big compliment to Bieber.”
As was the case all weekend, the Indians, who have beaten the Halos 21 times in 25 meetings going back to August 2015, brought some boom to back their starter, with Oscar Mercado, Francisco Lindor and the sizzling Jason Kipnis (who has five straight games with an extra-base hit) all going deep.
But Bieber’s continued prominence on a staff that swapped out Trevor Bauer at the Trade Deadline was the story of the day and is a big story of the Indians’ season. The Orange, Calif., native might have grown up supporting the Angels, but he did quite the opposite on a day in which the only damage against him was an Albert Pujols RBI single in the fourth and a Kole Calhoun solo homer in the seventh.
“I thought he was good,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “That was the first time I saw him pitch live. He’s got three really good quality pitches. … He keeps [hitters] honest. He’s got good stuff.”
So the Angels know Bieber’s name. And one supposes Topps, which apologized for the error, knows it now, too.
Bieber was thumbing through some fan mail when he came across the card, which somebody had sent him to sign. His first impression was, “That’s a cool card.”
Then he flipped it over and found the error staring at him in a sentence about his 2018 road success.
“I had to do a double take,” he said. “Sometimes, I question if they did it on purpose. Like an ‘any publicity is good publicity’ thing. But I wasn’t mad about it. I thought it was funny.”
Bieber might not ever escape the Justin jokes. But on the Major League stage, where he’s shown an increasingly rare ability to finish what he starts, he’s his own man.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.