CLEVELAND — Indians starting pitcher Shane Bieber has jumped from stop to stop during a lightning-fast rise through the baseball ranks over the past three seasons. He’ll be able to travel in style now in a brand new Chevrolet truck.
That was the prize he earned after being named the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player on Tuesday night at Progressive Field. Bieber struck out all three batters he faced — two looking — in the fifth inning.
“I didn’t really know what to think,” Bieber said. “I kind of lost all feeling in my body. Just to be able to do it in front of the home crowd in my first All-Star Game is definitely not something I expected, especially being just added (to the American League roster) five days ago.”
It’s probably something he and those who’ve followed his career should be expecting at this point.
Bieber was drafted in the fourth round in 2016, moved through the Indians’ minor leagues and joined the big league rotation a third of the way through the 2018 season.
He has been one of the Indians’ top pitchers this year, posting an 8-3 record with a 3.45 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 18 starts.
“He’s gaining experience and getting better and better every time he goes out there,” said Houston’s Michael Brantley, who played with Bieber in Cleveland last season. “He competes at a high level. I’m so proud of him and can’t wait to tell him congratulations again. That was fun to watch.”
Bieber came on in the fifth inning with the AL hanging on to a 1-0 lead. He set down Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte and Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. as the home crowd erupted.
“All three were on three different pitches — one fastball, second was a curveball and the last one was a slider — so I was just trying to mix it up and just go out there and get three outs. Things worked out pretty well and I definitely enjoyed it.”
The fans might have enjoyed it more. They chanted “Let’s go Bieber” as Bieber finished taking care of business on the mound and gave their hometown hero a standing ovation as he walked off the field.
“I kind of stepped off the back of the mound after one of my pitches and I wasn’t able to totally look up and see everything, just because there was so much going on, but I heard everything and really soaked it all in,” Bieber said. “I can’t really thank the fans enough for creating that moment for me and making it really special.”
The fans weren’t the only ones going crazy. Indians manager Terry Francona could be seen jumping for joy after the final strikeout and fellow All-Stars Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Brad Hand took turns offering Bieber congratulations.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Hand said. “We kind of joked about it before. I don’t know if a relief pitcher’s ever won the MVP, so you’ve got to go there and punch out the side and see what happens. And he punched out the side and he wins the MVP. So it’s pretty cool.”
Bieber is the second Indians player to be named the All-Star Game MVP at home, joining Sandy Alomar Jr. (1997), and the third player to win the award at their home ballpark — Pedro Martinez won it at Fenway Park in Boston in 1999.
He became the eighth pitcher to win the award and the first since New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in 2013.
Bieber also became the sixth Indians pitcher to log three strikeouts in an All-Star Game — the first since Cliff Lee in 2008 — and just the second to do it in one inning. Sam McDowell also did it in 1968.
“Baseball is a funny game,” Bieber said. “You can do everything right and not get the results you’d like. So I just go out there and try to give the team the best chance to win.
“Getting that reception from the dugout and from those guys was extremely special.
I don’t think it’s hit me and I don’t know when it will, but it’s going to hit me hard. That’s a pretty special thing to soak in.”
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