CLEVELAND (News Talk 1480 WHBC) – It had been a long wait for baseball to make its official return to Northeast, Ohio. A four month hiatus due to a world health pandemic had tribe fans, staff and even players starving for some action. They got all they could hope for and more when the club’s young ace, Shane Bieber took the mound.
While it might have been the first game of the season, Bieber was in mid-season form. The 2019 All Star Game MVP set a new club Opening Day record, striking out 14 batters in six shutout innings of work against Kansas City, leading Cleveland to a 2-0 victory.
The young right hander’s 14 strikeouts were the most any major league pitcher had thrown on Opening day since Randy Johnson sat down the same number of Chicago White Sox in 1996. Bieber celebrated his first birthday exactly two months after the Big Unit’s dominant performance.
Johnson did it with his fastball, Bieber did it with his knuckle-curve. The young ace threw his best breaking pitch 37 times; Royals (0-1) batters put it in play just once. The pitch accounted for 13 of Bieber’s 21 swing and misses. Needless to say, he was pleased with the results.
With just three batters hitting from the left side of the plate, Bieber attacked the Royals lineup by throwing low and away. 50 of his 97 pitches were located on the lower, outer half of the plate. If it was part of the game-plan going in, it worked to perfection, resulting in five Kansas City batters going down looking.
The Indians (1-0) didn’t need much offense, they got just enough for the victory in the bottom of the fifth inning. A hit by pitch to start the inning, a pair of singles from Roberto Perez and Oscar Mercado followed by a double by newly acquired second baseman Cesar Hernandez gave Cleveland a lead to which it wouldn’t surrender.
Perez led the way for the Tribe offensively, going 1-2 with a walk and a run scored. Hernandez was joined by Jose Ramirez as the only players to knock an extra base hit in the contest. Mercado delivered the game winning RBI, driving in Jordan Luplow for Cleveland’s first run of the season.
The bullpen picked up where Bieber left off, combining for an additional five strikeouts and three scoreless innings, securing the shutout and the victory. All Star closer Brad Hand came on to earn his first save of the season, fanning the first two batters of the game. Adam Cimber and Nick Wittgren delivered a scoreless inning of relief prior to Hand shutting the door on the evening.
— Noah Hiles (@Noah_Hiles95) July 25, 2020