Bieber continues scoreless start to season in Seattle

5:15 AM UTC

SEATTLE — The Guardians intend to be in the hunt for the postseason all year.

Shane Bieber is once again pitching like he intends to lead them there.

Bieber followed his Opening Day gem against Oakland with another gem Tuesday night against the Mariners, twirling six shutout innings in a tidy 5-2 victory that evened up the three-game series at a game apiece heading into Wednesday afternoon’s rubber match.

“Just incredible on a night like tonight,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said of Bieber’s effort. “Cold, windy and just dominating out there. It’s really fun to watch him two times in a row just doing exactly what we needed him to do and give us a chance to win.”

It’s looking more and more like the right-hander, who won the 2020 American League Cy Young Award, is in that elite type of form. After a strong Spring Training, Bieber has now pitched 12 scoreless innings over his two starts and has struck out 20 batters while only surrendering one walk. And he didn’t issue a free pass on Tuesday.

Bieber had good command, throwing 55 of his 83 pitches for strikes — many of those on the edges and corners of the strike zone. He also looked stronger as the game went on. Bieber’s only inning without a punchout was the first when the Mariners scratched out two singles, one of the infield variety.

After that, he struck out one in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth, three in the fifth and two in the sixth.

Bieber was dominant without lighting up the radar gun. His fastest pitch of the night registered at 92.6 mph, but he got plenty of outs with secondary stuff, including his changeup, which he hardly used in 2023. Of the 11 swings and misses he induced from Seattle hitters, seven of those came from his slider and one from his changeup.

“Every No. 1 pitcher on the planet, when you give them a lead and they know you have a little cushion, they get a lot more aggressive,” Vogt said. “They get a little more sharp, they take some chances, and they’re good enough to execute those pitches.”

Meanwhile, the Guardians’ offense slapped hits all over the yard, took advantage of mistakes by Seattle and gave Bieber more than enough for the victory.

In the fourth inning, Cleveland broke open a scoreless game. José Ramírez led off with an infield single, and after Seattle starter Luis Castillo got two popouts, Will Brennan hit a sharp liner to right field for a single. The ball got under Mitch Haniger’s glove for an error and Ramírez scooted home with the game’s first run.

Bo Naylor followed with a two-run home run into the right-field bleachers, his first long ball of the season, to push the lead to 3-0. Naylor has had two hits in each of his last two games.

“I’m definitely getting my feet under me,” he said. “Just kind of going out there and playing the game that I can.”

The Guardians scored again in the fifth inning when Brayan Rocchio led off with a double and Steven Kwan followed with a bunt base hit down the third-base line. Josh Rojas threw the ball wide of Seattle first baseman Ty France, allowing Rocchio to score to make it 4-0, and Cleveland added another run in the seventh against Mariners reliever Tayler Saucedo on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Freeman.

All in all, the Guardians tallied 12 hits in the game, getting 10 of those in Castillo’s 5 2/3 innings.

The Mariners got to Cleveland reliever Eli Morgan with two runs in the seventh on a Rojas RBI double and a J.P. Crawford RBI groundout, but relievers Scott Barlow, Tyler Beede and Emmanuel Clase blanked Seattle the rest of the way, with Clase picking up his second save of the season.

“For me, it’s motivating,” Bieber said of getting a lead from his offense. “It’s ‘Thank you. I appreciate you for doing your job and maybe even more, more than what’s needed.’ For me, it’s always encouraging, but I’d like to fight at the same time, because I want to show my teammates how much I care and how much I want to win because that’s what they’re doing for me.”

Bieber is already doing a lot for the Guardians, and, if you ask Vogt, for an old-school version of the game that isn’t as common as it used to be in an era of 100-plus-mph fastballs from the fifth inning on.

“It’s fun to watch pitching,” Vogt said. “I think in our game we have a lot of throwing and Shane’s a pitcher and knows how to work a masterpiece, as they say.

“There are certain guys that go out there and you just can’t wait to watch pitch, and he’s one of those.”