That’s a good thing, because it helped the Indians get out of Camden Yards with a win Sunday afternoon despite being outscored, 26-2, in the three-game series.
On May 19, Bieber threw his first career shutout and set a career-high with 15 strikeouts in a 10-0 win over the Orioles at Progressive Field. It was not that easy Sunday as the offense continued to struggle, forcing Bieber to throw a lot of high-leverage pitches while working with a small lead.
But thanks to Oscar Mercado and Carlos Santana, the Indians prevailed, 2-0. Mercado and Santana struck with two outs in the third and seventh innings. Mercado doubled in both innings and scored on Santana’s two singles. The singles extended Santana’s team-high RBI total to 50.
Last year with the Phillies, Santana had 86 RBI in 161 games. This year the AL’s starting first baseman in the All-Star Game has 50 in 82 games.
“The way we were scoring runs this weekend, they were at a premium,” said manager Terry Francona. “Bieber went out and from pitch one pitched his rear end off. He needed to because if he didn’t, we’re either still playing or we lose because runs were hard to come by.”
The Indians, in losing Friday and Saturday by identical scores of 13-0, became the first team in big league history to be shut out in consecutive games by 13 or more runs. Credit STATS LLC with the research on that nugget.
“This is what we needed,” said Mercado. “To put it mildly, they kicked our butts in every aspect of the game in the first two games. Coming out and getting a win and having some momentum going into Kansas City is what we needed.”
Perhaps the Orioles just punched themselves out in the first two games of the series. But don’t forget the Bieber Effect.
Bieber (7-3, 3.54) struck out 11 and allowed three hits in eight innings. It was his fourth game of the season with 10 or more strikeouts, and fifth of his career. In two starts against the Orioles this year, he has 26 strikeouts in 17 scoreless innings. He hasn’t walked a batter, while allowing eight hits.
“I thought they might be sitting soft (stuff) early because I used it so much the first time I faced them, especially late in the count," said Bieber. “So I figured we’d attack them more with the fastball early and late in the count. I felt we did that more today.”
In the third, the Indians scored their first run of the series. Mercado hit a hustle double to center with two out off Gabriel Ynoa (0-6, 6.22). Santana singled to right to bring him home for a 1-0 lead. Jason Kipnis kept the inning going with a single to left and a steal of second, but Ynoa retired Jose Ramirez on a grounder to second.
“I’m always running hard out of the box,” said Mercado. “As I’m making turn at first, I looked up and felt I had a chance to make this happen. I understand who’s hitting behind me (Santana). He’s arguably been our Most Valuable Player.
“He’s one of the best players in baseball. So if I can find a way to get to second ... Thankfully it worked in our favor.”
The Indians missed a chance in the first when Francisco Lindor started the way with a double to right. Mercado moved him to third with a grounder to first, but the Indians couldn’t score Lindor. Santana grounded out to first and Kipnis sent a liner to left that Anthony Santander made lunging catch on.
They made it 2-0 in the in the seventh when Mercado doubled to the wall in right center. Santana delivered him with a single through the middle.
Closer Brad Hand, making his first appearance since his consecutive-saves streak was snapped at 22 on Tuesday, loaded the bases in the ninth before ending it with a strikeout of Santander to earn his 23rd save.
The Indians are off Monday before opening a three-game series against the Royals on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. RHP Trevor Bauer (6-6, 3.55) will open the series for the Tribe, while KC counters with RHP Jakob Junis (4-7, 5.23). Tuesday’s game time is 8:05 p.m. with SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM carrying the game.
RHP Mike Clevinger (1-2, 5.89) and RHP Zach Plesac (3-3, 3.61) will start Wednesday and Thursday’s game for the Tribe. The Royals will go with LHP Danny Duffy (3-4, 4.43) and RHP Homer Bailey (7-6, 4.87).