Shane Bieber limited the Cincinnati offense to three runs over eight quality innings and Cleveland backed its ace with three long balls as the Indians avoided a series sweep with a 6-3 win over the Reds on Sunday afternoon.
Bieber picked up right where he left off his last time out, pitching deep into the ball game and giving his team a chance to win. Unlike his last start, which required nine shutout innings from him before victory came in extras, Bieber got some early run support to back his 13-K effort on the rubber.
The Tribe gave the league’s reigning Cy Young winner a lead to work with before he even took the mound. Jose Ramirez notched the first run scored against Wade Miley in 2021, getting the green light on a 3-0 cutter and parking it 420 feet into the left field seats to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
Bieber pitched around some traffic in the early innings. He gave up a two-out single to Joey Votto in the first. He walked a pair but stranded both men by striking out three in the second. Votto got to him for a two-bagger in the third with two down, but all those Reds base runners were left on base.
Cleveland went down in order against Miley in the second and missed out on an opportunity with a runner in scoring position in the third when Yu Chang opened the frame with a single and moved to second on a fielding error by left fielder Jesse Winker. Bieber grounded out and Jordan Luplow and Cesar Hernandez followed with strikeouts.
The Indians finally broke things open in the fourth with a two-out rally. After a lineout by Ramirez and a strikeout by Franmil Reyes, Eddie Rosario singled to right. Amed Rosario joined him on the bases with an infield single to put two on for Roberto Perez. He worked the count to 3-1 and crushed a low changeup over the center field wall for a three-run home run, giving Cleveland a 4-0 advantage.
Cincinnati had another runner reach in the fourth, this time via error, but did not score. That changed in the fifth with a more aggressive approach at the plate against Bieber. Mark Payton, pinch-hitting for Miley, singled to center. Winker drove a base hit to center and moved to second on the throw in from the outfield. Nicholas Castellanos grounded the next pitch to Ramirez at third, holding the runners, but Votto recorded his third hit of the game with a two-run double to right to cut the deficit in half at 4-2. With the tying run at the plate and still only one out, Bieber worked out of the mess, getting Eugenio Suarez to ground to third before Tyler Naquin flied to left.
Cleveland wasted a one-out ground rule double by Reyes in the sixth, while Bieber faced the minimum for the first time on the day in the bottom of the frame, erasing Max Schrock (who reached via third strike wild pitch) on a double play ball. Back to work for a second inning against Sal Romano in the seventh, the Tribe used another big fly for some key insurance runs. Chang singled to left-center with one out and again was able to advance to second on an error by Winker. Bieber struck out swinging for the second out, but Luplow the lefty killer clobbered a 3-2 sinker up in the zone from the right-hander and poked it over the wall in center for a two-run shot, extending the Cleveland lead to 6-2.
Bieber struck out the side swinging in the seventh and he got all three outs in the eighth via strikeout to give him 13 on the day, but former friend of the feather Naquin chipped one run off of the Tribe lead with two out in Bieber’s final frame, hitting his sixth homer of the year to make it a 6-3 game.
Emmanuel Clase allowed an infield single to start the bottom of the ninth before striking out the next three in order to make it nine straight Reds out by strikeout and a 6-3 Cleveland victory. The win moved the Indians back above the .500 mark at 8-7 in avoiding the sweep. Cincinnati dropped to 9-6 on the year.
Bieber continued his historic strikeout clip to open the year, joining Nolan Ryan with the most strikeouts ever recorded over a pitcher’s first four appearances to a season with 48. He worked eight full innings, allowing three runs on six hits with a pair of walks to go with his 13 strikeouts. Of his 73 strikes on the day, eleven were looking and 25 were swinging. Bieber is now 2-1 on the season with a 2.45 ERA.
Clase’s save was his fourth of the year.
Miley worked five innings in suffering his first loss of the season. He was charged with four runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He had some trouble working from in front of batters and just nine of his 47 strikes thrown came on a swing and miss. Romano allowed two runs on three hits in an inning and two-thirds, while Cionel Perez and Carson Fulmer each contributed scoreless outings for Cincinnati.
The Indians were just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position on the day, but both of those hits left the yard for five of the team’s six runs on the day. Ramirez and Luplow each hit their fourth homers, while Perez added his third. Luplow now has ten RBI on the season and also drew a walk to reach base twice. The only other Cleveland player to reach base twice was Chang, who had a pair of singles on the day.
Votto was the offensive star of the day for the Reds, going 3-for-4 with a single, two doubles, and two RBI. He struck out in his other plate appearance. Cincinnati stranded seven men as a team.
The Indians will take the day off on Monday before starting a nine-game homestand from Progressive Field. The stretch of home cooking will start with a two-game set against the Chicago White Sox. Zach Plesac (1-2, 5.27 ERA) will look to bounce back from his worst start of the season in the 6:10 PM ET first pitch on Tuesday night, while his teammates will look to get into the hit column against left-hander Carlos Rodon (2-0, 0.00 ERA) in his first start since his no-hitter against Cleveland last Wednesday.
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