CLEVELAND (AP) — Shane Bieber threw some typically nasty strikes. He was most impressed with the one Indians third baseman José Ramírez fired.
“I’ve watched it probably like 50 times already,” Beiber said. “It was unbelievable.”
Cleveland’s ace struck out 10 in five innings to remain unbeaten in 2020, Carlos Santana had two RBIs and Ramírez made a jaw-dropping defensive play to lead the Indians to a 4-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.
Bieber (7-0) only allowed one run and five singles, but the Brewers were patient at the plate and made the right-hander run up his pitch count — 58 combined in the fourth and fifth innings — before needing Cleveland’s bullpen to finish things off.
Brad Hand, the Indians’ fourth reliever, worked the ninth for his 11th save in 11 tries. It was his 100th career save.
Bieber doesn’t always need a lot of help, but he got a sparkling assist from Ramírez with one out in the first inning.
Milwaukee’s Keston Hiura hit a shot down the third-base line that Ramírez snagged with a backhander before whipping an off-balance throw in one motion across the diamond for the out.
The stunning play even made Brewers third base coach Ed Sedar applaud, which Ramírez acknowledged with a wide smile.
“He had to get that thing out quick and he did,” Bieber said. “That was fun. It’s nice to be able to have him on the hot corner making those plays for you and talking smack and enjoying playing baseball. Honestly, that’s what does best, better than anybody, and it shows.”
Bieber came in leading the majors in strikeouts and added to his total by reaching double-digits for the sixth time this season.
Santana had an RBI double in the first off Brett Anderson (2-3) and chased the left-hander with a run-scoring single in the sixth when the Indians took a 4-1 lead.
The Indians, whose offense has been wildly inconsistent all season, improved to 20-2 when they score at least three runs.
Bieber breezed through the Brewers’ lineup the first time with relative ease. He struck out seven — including the last five in the order in a row — before giving up a two-out walk in the fourth to Christian Yelich, followed by Daniel Vogelbach’s hard single.
MIlwaukee’s hitters began figuring things out a little better the second time around against Bieber, and they closed within 2-1 in the fifth on three singles, the last a grounder up the middle that second baseman César Hernández’s stopped but couldn’t turn into an out.
Another single loaded the bases, but Bieber struck out Hiura and Yelich to end the threat.
“That was our big offensive chance,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’ve got a good pitcher, great pitcher on the mound, but he was at 100 pitches and we’d made him really work that inning. We’ve got our 2-3 hitters up, and he made some good pitches.”
By then, Bieber was at 103 pitches and interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. decided that was enough It was the first time Bieber didn’t go at least six innings this season.
“I had three pretty good innings and was eyeing going deep into the ballgame and then the fourth and fifth I had to work a little bit more than I would have liked,” Bieber said. “But that’s what happens when you walk a guy and then give up a couple hits in a row.”
It’s never a bad day to join a list with three Hall of Famers.
The 25-year-old Bieber has recorded at least eight strikeouts in his first nine starts, matching Indians Hall of Famer Bob Feller’s club mark (1946) to start a season. It’s also the majors’ longest run to start a season since Pedro Martinez did it nine times to start 1999.
Randy Johnson holds the major league record with 15 straight games of eight strikeouts or more to open 2000.
When Brewers closer Josh Hader allowed his first hit Saturday night, it ended his major league record of 12 straight hitless appearances to start the season. Hader held opponents without a hit for 35 at-bats, tying the record for the most to open a season with Hal Newhouser (1942) and Brad Clontz (1998).
Brewers: Off on Labor Day, Milwaukee opens a two-game series in Detroit on Tuesday with RHP Adrian Houser (1-3) facing Tigers RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-2).
Indians: RHP Zach Plesac, who returned to the team last week after being demoted for breaking COVID-19 protocols, starts the opener of a four-game series against Kansas City with RHP Brad Keller (3-1, 1.93) going for the Royals.
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