Josh Donaldson was all sizzle in his Cleveland Indians debut, but Shane Bieber served the steak as the Tribe rookie right-hander pitched the best outing of his career in a 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays to even the three-game series.
Despite issuing a career-high three walks, Bieber’s command of his four-seam fastball was masterful, paving the way for a career-high 11 strikeouts on the night. Five of his strikeouts were called third strikes, four of them on fastballs. As has been the case all season, his slider was his most effective secondary pitch, punching out five batters with his breaking ball.
His final line: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K
Yan Gomes homered to center field in the fifth inning to put the Tribe on the board and back Bieber with a 1-0 lead. Edwin Encarnacion, who homered off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow when the two first faced each other back in August, delivered an encore performance, sending another solo shot into the stands in sixth inning to make it 2-0.
That lead appeared tenuous in the seventh inning, when Bieber allowed a double and a walk before being pulled with two outs. Brad Hand took the mound and proceeded to pitch seven consecutive balls, walking the bases loaded and coming close to walking in a run. Fortunately, Mallex Smith popped out to Francisco Lindor to end the inning.
Cody Allen pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. And don’t look now, but with Andrew Miller back on the mound and Allen starting to resemble his old self, the Indians’ three-headed bullpen monster is beginning to emerge from hibernation.
Donaldson was 0-for-4 at the plate in his first game as a member of the Tribe. He was not alone in his struggles though. Donaldson combined with Jose Ramirez, Yonder Alonso, and Melky Cabrera to go 0-for-15. That’s sub-optimal for the middle of the lineup.