Presumptive Cy Young winner Shane Bieber had his worst start of the season against the Yankees on Tuesday
Cleveland Indians starter Shane Bieber breezed through the opposition in 2020, utilizing a mid-90s fastball and devastating knuckle curveball. He’s likely to win his first Cy Young Award this season. But he didn’t face the New York Yankees.
The powerful Yankees lineup jumped all over Bieber in Game 1 of their best-of-three Wild Card series in Cleveland. They knocked Bieber for seven earned runs in just 4.2 innings, his shortest outing of the season.
Bieber made 12 starts during the regular season. He gave up just one earned run in the first inning. The Yankees scored two runs off him by the time he reached four pitches on Tuesday. After DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a single, Aaron Judge hit a first-pitch fastball over the fence in right-center field for an early 2-0 Yankees lead. Bieber didn’t give up any runs in the third inning all season; Luke Voit brought home Aaron Hicks with a two-out double to increase the Yankees lead to three.
It was his usually-reliable fastball that deserted Bieber on Tuesday. The Yankees were looking for it and weren’t afraid to swing early in the count. Bieber got just one swinging strike off his fastball; opponents swung and missed at the pitch more than 25 percent of the time during the regular season. In the fourth inning, he threw six straight breaking balls to Gleyber Torres before walking him on a 3-2 pitch. He went back to the fastball to begin the next at-bat, only for Brett Gardner to line a double off the fence in left to drive in the fourth Yankees run.
Bieber’s night came to an early end with two outs in the fifth when Torres hit a two-run homer, driving in Gio Urshela and bringing the score to 7-2. Both home runs Bieber gave up on Tuesday came off his fastball, the same number he surrendered all season. He gave up two home runs in a game just once over his last eight starts.
The seven earned runs Bieber allowed in Game 1 tied a career-high and were four more than he gave up in any start this season. Bieber led the American League in every significant pitching category in 2020: his 1.63 ERA was the lowest by any AL pitcher with at least 12 starts since Luis Tiant in 1968. He struck out 14.2 batters per nine innings, the most ever by a starting pitcher, and led the league with 122 strikeouts. He’s the first pitcher to win the Triple Crown since 2011 and is certain to win the Cy Young Award.
His opponents couldn’t solve him all season. Until he came up against the Bronx Bombers in the postseason, that is.