DETROIT — The only thing missing from Shane Bieber’s Saturday afternoon performance against the Tigers were strikes. Otherwise everything went as usual.
Bieber improved to 7-3 against Detroit as the Guardians ended a three-game losing streak with an 8-1 win at Comerica Park.
In his previous six starts against Detroit, Bieber knocked out 10 or more batters in each start. That included his May 22 start at Progressive Field, when he went down 10 in a 4-2 loss. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is the only other pitcher to torture the Tigers this way.
Bieber’s streak ended Saturday when he settled for five strikeouts in eight innings. Bieber (2-3, 3.19) allowed a run for 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 the early counts,” Bieber said. “We were able to make adjustments on the fly and tried to run that count as best we could. This allowed us to work deep into the game.”
Jose Ramirez, the other thorn in the Tigers’ paw, gave Bieber room to work for a 5-0 lead with a triple three-pointer on Jason Foley in the seventh inning. He added a double-barrelled, 422-foot homer in the ninth. Ramirez leads the big leagues with 48 RBI and his career stats against the Tigers are staggering — a .329 (134 to 407) batting average, 24 homers and 92 RBI.
“It’s just a pleasure to watch him,” said coach Terry Francona. “I hope people recognize what they see. Gosh, he’s just that good.
“He’s so smart. I don’t think people realize how smart he is. You’re not doing what he’s doing without having a baseball IQ that’s off the charts.”
It was a tough time for the Guardians. They have won just four of their last 12 games. On that trip, they went 1-2 against the Astros, lost to the Tigers, 4-3, Thursday and got rained out on Friday. It was her eighth postponement so far this season.
But Detroit has been a safe haven for Cleveland in recent years. They’ve won 20 of their last 26 at Comerica Park. Overall, Cleveland has been up 79-29 against the Tigers since the start of the 2016 season.
Bieber was in the rain at the start on Friday. His previous start was delayed by 20 minutes due to rain. If it’s his day this season, it seems like the rain will follow.
“It was almost like I knew[the Friday postponement]was coming,” Bieber said. “That’s how it went. You can either let it come to you or see it as another challenge, another test. I spoke to (Aaron) Civale and he said, ‘This is crazy. You have to lead the league on starting days, but you only get seven or eight (actually nine) starts.’”
The Guardians took a 2-0 lead against Alex Faedo (1-2, 3.00) in the fourth quarter when Ramirez walked, stealing second place and hitting Josh Naylor with a long double to the right. Rookie Oscar Gonzalez delivered Naylor with a single to the left.
Cleveland put the game down with four runs in the seventh. Jacob Barnes, starting the inning to Faedo’s relief, allowed Richie Palacios a leadoff double. Austin Hedges put him in third place with a sacrificial bunt. Barnes then really made a mess by leading Myles Straw and Steven Kwan to load the bases.
Foley was relieved to face the dangerous Ramirez, who sent a 2-0 fastball past first and into the right field corner to clear bases. Naylor scored Ramirez with a single left for a 6-0 lead.
Ramirez hits .297 (47-for-158) with 12 homers and 48 RBI. Its slash is as follows: .297/.391/.646. His OPS is 1.037.
“I don’t know how many RBI’s he’s in,” Bieber said. “I’m done counting. I know he’s done counting. We know he will keep going. It’s different right now. But it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Detroit’s only run was the seventh with a sacrificial fly by Willi Castro. Bieber only needed 94 pitches to go through eight innings. He hit the minimum in the first 4 2/3 innings thanks to double plays in the first and second innings.
The Guardians finished the tournament with 11 hits, including two each from Ramirez, Naylor, Gonzalez (who had a single and a double in 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 13:40 Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM and WMMS will broadcast the game.
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