The Cleveland Indians were unable to leave Seattle with a split on Sunday, as Shane Bieber lasted a season-low four and two-thirds innings and the bats could not figure out a bullpen day from the Mariners to lose for the third straight game, this time by a 3-2 count.
Bieber’s incredible streak of eight strikeouts in 20 consecutive starts came to an end in a rough go for the reigning Cy Young winner. He finished his day with seven, but he was unable to make it through five innings as command eluded him again.
While Seattle did not light up the scoreboard with a big offensive display, the pitching staff united to make the three early runs notched against Bieber stand up. Both run-scoring hits came on the heels of outfielder Mitch Haniger working his way on base.
Haniger earned one of his two two-base hits on the day in the first inning, driving a one-out double the opposite way to the right field corner. Bieber came back to strike out Kyle Seager on three pitches for the second out, but Kyle Lewis delivered the game’s first run with a single to center to put the Mariners up, 1-0.
The Indians could not figure out opener Robert Dugger, who retired the side in order in the first and struck out all three outs in the second around a two-out walk by Jordan Luplow. He followed that frame with a perfect third.
Bieber set down the Mariners in order in the second, but ran into command problems in the third. After striking out Donovan Walton and getting Jarred Kelenic to line to right, he lost Haniger in a seven-pitch AB. Seager followed with a six-pitch walk of his own to put a pair on. Lewis loaded the bases with a single to left and J.P. Crawford plated two runs with a single to center to give Seattle a 3-0 edge.
Paul Sewald stranded Tribe runners at second in the fourth and fifth frames. Franmil Reyes doubled with two outs in the fourth, but was left at second on a strikeout by Josh Naylor. Jake Bauers drew a one-out walk the next inning and moved to second on an infield single with two outs by Andres Gimenez, but Cesar Hernandez struck out swinging to leave the pair.
Bieber pitched himself right back into a mess in the fifth in what proved to be his final pitches on the mound. After a groundout by Kelenic, Haniger doubled to left. Seager struck out on three pitches for the second out, but Lewis and Crawford each drew five-pitch walks to bring manager Terry Francona out of the dugout to retrieve his ace. Phil Maton took over in a crucial spot and got the job done, striking out Dylan Moore swinging to leave all of the ducks on the pond.
Cleveland put together another scoring opportunity in the sixth and, unlike its previous two attempts, succeeded at driving in a runner in scoring position. Eddie Rosario drew a leadoff walk against new reliever Rafael Montero. Jose Ramirez laced a double to right to put both men within reach of home. Reyes was cut down on strikes, but Naylor got a run home with a groundout to second. Luplow wore down Montero for ten pitches, finally grounding to third, but a fielding error by Walton allowed Ramirez to score to cut it to a 3-2 game. Bauers kept the inning alive with a double to left to put runners on second and third, bringing Scott Servais out to the mound for Will Vest. He needed just three pitches to send Austin Hedges back to the dugout a strikeout victim.
Maton got a double play ball to get out of the home half of the sixth before the Indians loaded the bases in a botched rally effort. Amed Rosario and Hernandez each singled. E. Rosario sacrificed the pair up 90 feet and Ramirez was intentionally walked to bring the dangerous Reyes to the plate. He fell behind Anthony Misiewicz 0-2 before grounding into a back-breaking 5-4-3 double play.
Bryan Shaw and Emmanuel Clase each walked a pair of batters in scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, but the Tribe bats failed to make any noise against the M’s ‘pen. Erik Swanson set down the side with a pair of strikeouts, while Kendall Graveman escaped unharmed in the ninth for his fifth save of the year, working around a two-out single by Hernandez by getting E. Rosario to ground out to second.
With their third straight victory over Cleveland (21-17), the Mariners moved back above the .500 mark to 21-20.
Bieber’s shortest outing of the season was due in large part to control issues throughout the game. He made 103 pitches (59 strikes), giving up three runs on five hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. He struggled to work from in front, falling behind 13 of the 23 batters that he faced in the quick stint on the mound. He dropped to 4-3 with the loss.
“The last few outings haven’t been super sharp like the beginning of the year,” said Bieber after the game. “That’s the way baseball goes if you’re starting. You have to ride the highs and lows.”
The Indians bullpen fired three hitless innings in relief of Bieber, but did walk five.
Duggar worked three hitless innings, striking out four in a no-decision. Sewald earned the win as the pitcher of record in the fifth, striking out four batters of his own in two scoreless frames.
The Indians could not cash in their chips when the time was right. The club was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine in the one-run loss. Hernandez led the offense with a pair of hits. Naylor’s RBI groundout recorded his eleventh RBI of the campaign.
Seattle’s five hits came from just three men in the lineup. Haniger had two doubles, drew a pair of walks, and scored twice. Lewis had two singles and two walks while driving home the game’s first run. Crawford was 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI.
The Indians will head down the west coast to conclude their seven-game trip with a three-game series in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. Left-hander Sam Hentges will make his second start of the season in the opener of that series on Monday night.
Cleveland will play host to Seattle from June 11 to June 13.
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