Shane Bieber might be the right guy on the mound to help the visiting Cleveland Indians end their current slide. Assuming they can find a way to score some runs.
Entering the week as the majors’ strikeout leader, Bieber looks to continue his early dominance and go 3-0 while trying to help the visiting Indians avoid a fifth straight defeat Tuesday night in the second of four consecutive games against the Cincinnati Reds. After two games in Cincinnati, the clubs will play at Cleveland on Wednesday and Thursday.
Bieber has certainly lived up to his role as Cleveland’s ace in the unique 2020 campaign. After allowing four hits and striking out 14 with one walk over six innings in a 2-0 season-opening victory over Kansas City, the right-hander was even better Thursday at Minnesota. He gave up three hits, fanned 13 — without a walk — and tossed eight innings in another 2-0 victory.
The 2019 All-Star Game MVP tied the major league record with 27 strikeouts over the first two outings of a season, matching the mark set by Karl Spooner for the 1954 Brooklyn Dodgers.
Bieber, 25, posted double-digit strikeout totals six times over 33 starts in 2019.
“I’ve never been that much of a punchout pitcher,” Bieber said. “I’ve made some adjustments over the past couple of years and started to see more swing-and-miss.”
Bieber has totaled 13 strikeouts while going 1-0 with a 3.65 ERA in two career starts against the Reds, whose hitters are averaging almost eight strikeouts per contest this year. One potential, but major, issue for Bieber, though, is that the Indians have hit .149 (27-for-181) while scoring six runs and striking out 60 times while losing five of their past six games.
Francisco Lindor homered and had two of Cleveland’s five hits Monday in a 3-2 loss to Cincinnati.
Joey Votto’s two-run, go-ahead homer in the sixth inning on Monday helped Cincinnati to its third straight win while snapping a six-game home skid against the Indians. Votto returned to the Reds’ lineup after sitting out the club’s doubleheader sweep at Detroit on Sunday after self-reporting COVID-19 symptoms. He wound up testing negative.
“It’s a relief for the rest of the team — not only Joey,” manager David Bell said. “We continue to feel good about what we’re doing to protect one another.”
Votto has homered three times this season but is 0-for-5 in his career against Bieber. Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos has homered three times in two days, and he is batting .382 with 12 RBIs in 2020.
Cincinnati turns Tuesday to Tyler Mahle (0-0, 4.50 ERA), who has struggled against the Indians in two starts over the past two seasons. He’s allowed 10 runs, eight earned, on 12 hits and five walks over 6 1/3 innings while losing both outings. The right-hander gave up two runs and six hits in four innings on July 28 in an 8-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
It’s uncertain if the Reds will be without outfielder Nick Senzel for a second consecutive contest. Senzel, 6-for-14 with four doubles and a home run over his past four games, is dealing with a finger issue.
The Indians, meanwhile, will again be without manager Terry Francona, who is dealing with a gastrointestinal issue. First base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. guided the team for a second consecutive game Monday in place of Francona, whose condition does appear to be related to COVID-19.
–Field Level Media