CLEVELAND — Things began well for Indians hitters and starting pitcher Shane Bieber on Saturday night.
It was the ending that needed some work.
Cleveland scored twice in the second inning against Rays All-Star left-hander Blake Snell, and Bieber didn’t allow a run through the first five innings. But the offense dried up and Tampa Bay rallied past Bieber and the Indians 5-3 in front of 31,816 fans at Progressive Field.
Bieber allowed hits in four of the first five innings, but was able to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard until the sixth, when the Rays started the inning with three straight hits — the last one a game-tying, two-run double from Matt Duffy.
Bieber got another out before allowing another RBI double, this one by Tommy Pham, that put Tampa Bay in front to stay.
“It’s happened a couple starts where he’ll command so well and then for about four or five hitters all the sudden it just kinda runs over towards the middle. He misses over the plate,” manager Terry Francona said of Bieber, who allowed four runs on nine hits over 5 1⁄3 innings.
“He does such a good job of working ahead in the count, but early in the count it was just catching way too much of the plate. I think every time he pitches he learns because he’s such a conscientious kid.”
“I think they were sitting off-speed a little bit and third time around the order teams have been seeing me a little bit, a little bit better,” said Bieber, whose ERA is at 4.66 over his first 15 big league starts. “I’m pretty frustrated with ... I feel like I’m putting myself in some pretty good positions to have the outings that I want, but the third time around the order they’re making adjustments before I can make adjustments and to me that’s frustrating. But that’s part of the process. I gotta learn from it and I know I’ll get better from it.
“I’m gonna stay positive because I know this is going to be a good learning experience. It’s something a lot of guys go through. I’m gonna learn from it and grow from it.”
Snell entered the night having allowed one or fewer runs in each of his last five starts, but consecutive RBI doubles from Melky Cabrera and Yan Gomes gave the Indians the early advantage.
After allowing consecutive leadoff singles to Brandon Guyer and Cabrera in the fourth, Snell found his groove, retiring 10 of the last 11 hitters he faced and striking out the side in the sixth.
“I thought we had some really good at-bats early just to do what we did,” Francona said. “His stuff was phenomenal — velocity, breaking ball, change-up. He’s got the whole package.”
Jason Kipnis wasn’t in the lineup, but he entered as a pinch hitter to lead off the ninth and hit his 14th home run off the foul pole in right field. Kipnis is expected to lose playing time with the arrival of Josh Donaldson, who was acquired in a waiver-wire trade with Toronto late Friday night.
“Nobody will ever root against him, I can promise you that,” Francona said of Kipnis, who could move to center field as he did late last season. “Getting Donaldson is good for us and I don’t know where Kip ends up, but I guarantee every time he hits I’ll be pulling for him like I always do. He can help us. We don’t think otherwise.”
Donaldson joined the Indians in the dugout during the game. He got a nice ovation when he was shown on the scoreboard.
“I think I was on the mound and they must have shown his picture,” Francona said. “I can’t imagine they were cheering the pitching move.”
Right-hander Jon Edwards, who joined the Indians from Triple-A Columbus on the first day of roster expansion, made his first appearance in the majors since Oct. 4, 2015.
Edwards, who missed two years after reconstructive elbow surgery, allowed a single and walked two, but worked a scoreless eighth inning.
“He’s had a long road back and there’s something to like there,” Francona said. “We’re getting to know him here, but I thought it was good to get him in a game and I know it probably meant a lot to him.”
Despite the loss, the Indians trimmed their magic number to 14 thanks to Minnesota’s loss to Texas.
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