After a record-setting, 14-strikeout performance in his season debut, right-hander Shane Bieber makes his second start of the season on Thursday night when the Cleveland Indians open a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
Bieber (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who finished fourth in American League Cy Young Award voting in 2019, moved to the front of the 2020 list after a 2-0 victory over Kansas City on Friday. He allowed just four hits and a walk in six innings while setting a club record for strikeouts for an Opening Day performance.
It also marked the first time a major league pitcher struck out at least 14 batters in the first game of the season since Hall of Famer Randy Johnson did it over seven innings in 1996.
"I mean, I've honestly never seen anything like it," Indians outfielder Oscar Mercado said afterward, according to MLB.com. "His ability to control the plate with all these pitches, throw any pitch in whatever count. He's a remarkable talent, and I'm glad he's on my team. It's fun watching him pitch."
Bieber threw 37 curveballs in the contest, 13 of which were swung at and missed.
"I think when I get into a rhythm like that, I'm attacking, and so it's two strikes, and that's when I'm trying to miss barrels," Bieber said, according to MLB.com. "If I can get a quick out on one of the first two or three pitches, I would gladly take that and go deeper into the game, but I feel like I had a lot of three-pitch strikeouts today, and that was just me trying to be aggressive and get as deep in the ballgame as possible."
Bieber will be making his ninth career appearance against Minnesota and his eighth start. He is 3-0 with a 4.14 ERA against the Twins and is 1-0 with a 4.71 ERA at Target Field.
Right-hander Jose Berrios (0-0, 11.25 ERA) will start for Minnesota. The two-time All-Star struggled with his fastball command in his first start on Friday, a 10-5 Twins victory over the White Sox in which he got a no-decision. He yielded five runs, including a three-run homer by Yoan Moncada during a four-run second, on seven hits and a walk in four innings while striking out just one.
"The first two innings I felt really strong, really healthy," Berrios said, "but I left the ball right in the middle (of the plate)."
Berrios is 5-2 with a 3.92 ERA in 11 career starts against Cleveland, including a 2-0 mark with a 2.55 ERA in four starts last season. He has been particularly tough to beat during his career at Target Field, where he has compiled a 25-14 mark and a 3.68 ERA.
Minnesota, which ended Cleveland's three-year reign as American League Central champions in 2019 with a 101-win season, is coming off a two-game sweep of the defending NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Twins earned a 3-0 victory on Wednesday night, with five pitchers combining on a three-hitter.
Meanwhile, Cleveland blew eight innings of shutout pitching by Zach Plesac, losing to the visiting Chicago White Sox 4-0 on Wednesday when closer Brad Hand was touched for four runs (three earned) in the ninth.
The Indians will be without Gold Glove catcher Roberto Perez, who was placed on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday due to a right shoulder sprain.
--Field Level Media