CLEVELAND – Indians pitcher Shane Bieber took a second to hear the home crowd at Progressive Field chanting his name during the fifth inning of Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
“I kind of stepped off the back of the mound after one of my pitches,” Bieber said. “I wasn’t able to totally look up and see everything because there was so much going on, but I heard everything and soaked it all in. I can’t really thank the fans (enough) for creating that moment for me and making it so special.”
It was a night of poignant moments for Cleveland pitchers past and present. Carlos Carrasco, who is fighting chronic myeloid leukemia, was honored as part of the “Stand Up to Cancer” campaign. Former Indians pitcher CC Sabathia received a standing ovation after a mound visit in the ninth inning. That was part of the script for a special night in which the American League won 4-3.
Bieber provided the topper by striking out the side in the fifth inning. He earned All-Star Game MVP honors and joined former Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. (1997) and Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez (1999) as the only players to earn that honor in their home park.
“I kind of lost feeling in my body,” Bieber said of when he was greeted at the top of the dugout by teammate Francisco Lindor after striking out the side. “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 added to the game four or five days ago.”
Bieber, who is 8-3 with a 3.45 ERA and 141 strikeouts this season, was named as an injury replacement July 5. After the AL took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, Bieber pitched a scoreless inning that defined the AL’s pitching dominance that included 16 Ks and just five hits.
“He’s a good pitcher,” AL manager Alex Cora said. “Good fastball. Good mix, talking to Tito (Francona), he’s a great person, too. It was electric out there, the fans got in it and it was fun.”
Bieber mixed those pitches in a 19-pitch inning. He caught Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras looking with a 95 mph fastball. Arizona’s Ketel Marte worked a full count, but Bieber got him to a chase a knuckle-curve. Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. worked another full count, but Bieber froze him with a slider.
That sent the crowd into a three-part roar that reached its crescendo when Lindor greeted Bieber at the dugout steps. All Bieber could do was smile.
“MVP brother, that’s it,” Lindor said. “He was outstanding today. He showed up. He’s been doing it all season long. That’s why he’s an All-Star. He did it again today. That’s why he’s MVP.”
“(Lindor) said he was proud of me,” Bieber said about the exchange. “Getting the response from the dugout, and those guys and those names was extremely special.”
Bieber’s outing was reflective of the role he’s played in keeping the Indians in the AL playoff race given the first-half injuries to Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger, along with Carrasco’s fight with cancer. Bieber has emerged as a star in just two seasons. His K/9 rate has jumped to 11.3 this season, and he has 23 more strikeouts than all of last season despite facing 37 fewer batters.
He’s developed a friendly competition with teammate Trevor Bauer, and that was reflected in the notifications on his phone.
“My phone is buzzing right now, I can feel it,” Bieber said after the game. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s him. He’s an awesome teammate and I know all my teammates were shooting me texts and congratulating me.”
That will continue, and Bieber’s place in Cleveland lore is secure. He joins Alomar Jr., now Cleveland’s first-base coach, who hit the legendary home run in the 1997 All-Star game. While Bieber admitted the moment hasn’t hit him yet, it might when those two have that conversation.
Perhaps they will compare how it feels to hear those chants in Cleveland.
“I’m excited to go see him,” Bieber said. “I don’t know if I’ll see him tonight or Thursday in the workout before Friday’s game. Definitely excited to see him and talk to him, and it’s nice to kind of keep it in the city of Cleveland.”
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