Cleveland’s Shane Bieber looks to regain form against Mariners

MLB Baseball

The Cleveland Indians will have a big pitching advantage when they wrap up a four-game series at Seattle on Sunday afternoon.

Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber (4-2, 2.95 ERA) is scheduled to start for Cleveland, which needs a victory to split the series. His 85 strikeouts are tied with Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow for tops in the majors.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us (Sunday),” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after a 7-3 victory Saturday night in which Mitch Haniger hit his 12th home run of the season, tying Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. for the major-league lead.

Dylan Moore also homered for the Mariners, who have scored seven runs in each of the past two games after being no-hit into the eighth inning by Cleveland’s Zach Plesac in the series opener.

“Our plan and approach going into the game … we had a very clear idea of what we wanted to do. That’s what it takes. You’ve got to have a plan, got to do your homework,” Servais said. “We’ve got our hands full (Sunday), with a very good pitcher on the mound for them. We’ve got to have a good plan.”

Bieber, who is 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in two career starts against the Mariners, is coming off a 3-2 victory Tuesday against the visiting Chicago Cubs despite it being perhaps his worst game of the season.

Bieber allowed two runs on nine hits with a season-low eight strikeouts, three walks, one homer and one hit batter, but he gutted his way through 6 2/3 innings.

“My stuff hasn’t been exceptional like the beginning of the year right now, so to be able to go out there … you got one goal in mind, and that’s to win,” Bieber, who threw a career-high 121 pitches against the Cubs, said. “All of that truly has to do with my teammates and the offense, multiple guys in multiple dimensions picking me up. They continue to do that and give me the energy to go out there and continue to compete.”

Indians manager Terry Francona said there were several factors that hindered Bieber in his most recent outing.

“I thought (Bieber) made some mistakes,” he said. “I also thought he threw some strikes that weren’t called that didn’t help. That’s part of the game. But you look up and he’s (pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed) two runs, and pitched pretty damn good. He competes like crazy. I don’t think his slider’s been (as sharp) the last couple of games as what he’s used to. Knowing Biebs, he’ll go out in his bullpen and probably fix it.”

Bieber, who has thrown fewer than 100 pitches in just one of his eight starts, said he’s not worried about his workload.

“I don’t really pay attention to pitch count,” Bieber said, “because at the end of the day, the most important thing is getting outs. That’s first and foremost.”

With two starting pitchers — and two of their replacements — on the injured list, the Mariners will start right-handed reliever Robert Dugger (0-0, 2.25) on Sunday. Dugger pitched two scoreless innings in the series opener on Thursday in his only career appearance against Cleveland.

It will be the first start for Dugger with Seattle, but he started eight games for the Miami Marlins in 2019-20. He has a career record of 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA.

–Field Level Media

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