Shane Bieber’s march to the Cy Young Award is gaining some traction as Major League Baseball recognized the 25-year-old right-hander as the American League’s Pitcher of the Month of August.
After opening the year with a solid six shutout innings in the Home Opener on July 26 against the Kansas City Royals and winning a key matchup against Minnesota in a 13-strikeout, three-hit performance over eight shutout innings for his second win of 2020, Bieber has remained locked in even after the calendar flipped. He made six starts in August, posting a 4-0 record with a 1.63 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP, striking out 57 batters and walking 12 in 38 2/3 innings of work.
Bieber made his second road start of the year and his third start overall on August 4 when the Indians travelled to Cincinnati to take on the Reds. In his first interleague game of the year and his first without having to pick up a bat, Bieber worked seven and two-thirds innings, hurt only by a pair of solo home runs. He was picked up late as the Indians scored two in the seventh and two more in the eighth and he turned the game over to the bullpen with two down in the bottom of the eighth after scattering seven hits and a pair of walks while striking out eight. The Indians won 4-2 and Bieber improved to 3-0 on the year after making a season-high 106 pitches.
The righty took a tough no-decision against the Chicago White Sox on August 9 in his third straight road start. He gave the Tribe six innings, allowing three runs on four hits with a pair of walks and eight strikeouts. Two home run balls hurt, but the Indians came back to claim a 5-4 victory in the fourth quality start of the season by Bieber.
Bieber was locked in again on August 15 as the Indians headed to Detroit for a series with the Tigers. He shut down the Motor City Kitties with seven shutout innings, giving up a walk and three hits while striking out eleven, his third double-digit K outing of the season. The Indians held on for a 3-1 win and Bieber moved to 4-0.
It was more shutout baseball with plenty of strikeouts, but Bieber didn’t rack up quite as many swings and misses in dismantling the Pittsburgh Pirates from PNC Park on August 20. Making his fifth straight start on the road, he faced 24 batters and gave up six hits with his second walk-free game of the year. He struck out eleven and kept the Pirates off of the scoreboard as the Indians held on for a 2-0 victory. Bieber moved to 5-0 on the season while dropping his ERA to 1.11.
Bieber took his second look at the Twins on August 25. Making just his second home start of the season through seven games, he was quality once again. He allowed a pair of runs on four hits over six innings, walking a season-high three batters while striking out ten. It marked his seventh straight quality start and his fifth start of the year with ten or more strikeouts. Cleveland completed a 4-2 win in nine, moving Bieber to 6-0 on the season.
Bieber’s final start of the month was a little uncharacteristic, but he worked around some problems to make his eighth quality start of the season. Facing the Royals for the second time this season, he allowed just one base hit in six innings of work. He walked a season-high four, but he used nine strikeouts and 22 strikes looking to prevent any damage in the scoreless start (his fifth such game of the campaign). He left in line for the win with a 1-0 lead, but an eighth inning bullpen collapse by James Karinchak and Adam Cimber allowed Kansas City to plate a pair on the way to a 2-1 Indians loss.
Among qualified junior circuit hurlers, Bieber was at the top of the leaderboard in nearly every key pitching statistic. His four wins were tied with Dylan Cease (Chicago) and Mike Fiers (Oakland). His 57 strikeouts were tied with Chicago’s Lucas Giolito for the AL and MLB highs. His 1.63 ERA, seven runs allowed, and seven earned runs allowed were second only to Toronto’s Hyun Jin Ryu (1.29 ERA, five runs, four earned). A .169 batting average against placed him third in the league behind Giolito and Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda. He was fourth in innings at 38 2/3, trailing teammate Aaron Civale (40), Texas’ Lance Lynn (39 1/3), and Giolito (39). His 0.91 WHIP was good for fifth (behind Maeda, Ryu, Houston’s Zack Greinke, and Giolito). He was tied for seventh with 23 hits allowed. He was one of only 12 pitchers to make six starts in the month (joined by Civale and Carlos Carrasco).
The third-year right-hander entered play on Monday leading all of baseball with six wins, a 1.20 ERA, eight games started, 52 2/3 innings pitched, 84 strikeouts and a 14.4 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate, a 379 ERA+, and a 1.74 FIP. He also leads the American League in hits per nine innings at 5.1. It was the first Pitcher of the Month honor in Bieber’s big league career.
On the National League side of the award, Chicago’s Yu Darvish joined Bieber in taking home the hardware for the first time in his career. In five starts, Darvish went 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA in 33 innings of work. He struck out 40 and walked seven with a 1.03 WHIP in his perfect month. Other honorable mentions in the senior circuit included Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer (3-2, 2.27 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, two complete game shutouts in five starts), New York’s Jacob deGrom (2-1, 1.80 ERA, 1.03 WHIP in five starts), San Diego’s Dinelson Lamet (1-1, 2.54 ERA, 0.78 WHIP in five games), and Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (3-1, 2.35 ERA, 0.88 WHIP in five games).
Bieber will make his first start of September on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers in just his third game at Progressive Field in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images