DETROIT — The only thing missing from Shane Bieber’s performance Saturday afternoon against the Tigers was strikeouts. Other than that it was business as usual.
Bieber improved to 7-3 lifetime against Detroit as the Guardians ended a three-game losing streak with an 8-1 victory at Comerica Park.
In his previous six starts against Detroit, Bieber struck out 10 or more batters in each start. That included his May 22 start at Progressive Field when he struck out 10 in a 4-2 loss. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is the only other pitcher to torture the Tigers in that fashion.
Bieber’s streak ended Saturday as he settled for five strikeouts in eight innings. Bieber (2-3, 3.19) allowed one run on eight hits in his longest start of the season.
“I think the Tigers had a game plan where they wanted to come out and take advantage of early counts,” said Bieber. “We were able to make adjustments on the fly and tried to execute as best we could early in that count. That allowed us to work deep into the game.”
Jose Ramirez, the other thorn in the Tigers’ paw, gave Bieber room to work with a three-run triple off Jason Foley in the seventh inning for a 5-0 lead. He added a two-run, 422-foot homer in the ninth. Ramirez leads the big leagues with 48 RBI and his career numbers against the Tigers are staggering — .329 (134-for-407) batting average, 24 homers and 92 RBI.
“It’s just such a pleasure to watch him,” said manager Terry Francona. “I hope people realize what they’re seeing. My goodness, he’s just so good.
“He’s so smart. I don’t think people realize how smart he is. You don’t do what he’s doing without having a baseball IQ that’s off the charts.”
This has been a hard stretch for the Guardians. They’ve won just four of their last 12 games. On this trip, they went 1-2 against the Astros, lost to the Tigers, 4-3, Thursday and were rained out on Friday. It was their eighth postponement so far this season.
But Detroit has been a safe harbor for Cleveland in recent years. They’ve won 20 of their last 26 at Comerica Park. Overall, Cleveland is 79-29 against the Tigers since the start of the 2016 season.
Bieber was rained out of Friday’s start. His previous start was delayed by rain for 20 minutes. When it’s his day to pitch this season, it seems the rain follows.
“It was almost like I knew (Friday’s postponement) was coming,” said Bieber. “That’s how it’s gone. You can either let it get to you or take it as another challenge, another test. I was talking to (Aaron) Civale and he said, ‘This is crazy. You’ve got to be leading the league in start days, but you only have seven or eight (actually nine) starts.’”
The Guardians took a 2-0 lead in the fourth off Alex Faedo (1-2, 3.00) as Ramirez walked, stole second and scored on a long double to right by Josh Naylor. Rookie Oscar Gonzalez delivered Naylor with a single to left.
Cleveland put the game away with four runs in the seventh. Jacob Barnes, who started the inning in relief of Faedo, allowed a leadoff double to Richie Palacios. Austin Hedges moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt. Barnes then really made a mess of things by walking Myles Straw and Steven Kwan to load the bases.
Foley relieved to face the dangerous Ramirez, who sent a 2-0 fastball past first and into the right field corner to clear the bases. Naylor scored Ramirez with a single to left for a 6-0 lead.
Ramirez is hitting .297 (47-for-158) with 12 homers and 48 RBI. His slash line goes like this: .297/.391/.646. His OPS is 1.037.
“I don’t know how many RBI he’s at,” said Bieber. “I’m done counting. I know he’s done counting. We know he’s going to keep going. It’s otherworldly right now. But it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Detroit’s only run came in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Willi Castro. Bieber only needed 94 pitches to get through eight innings. He faced the minimum over the first 4 2/3 innings thanks to double plays in the first and second innings.
The Guardians finished with 11 hits, including two each by Ramirez, Naylor, Gonzalez (who has had a single and double in each of his first two MLB games) and Palacios.
Next: RHP Triston McKenzie (3-3, 2.70) vs. RHP Elvin Rodriguez (0-0, 9.39) Sunday at 1:40 pm Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
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