MINNEAPOLIS — It’s not often the Twins’ offense is completely silent for an entire night.
Then again, it’s not often that the Twins face a pitcher as dominant as Cleveland starter Shane Bieber.
Bieber followed up an Opening Day effort in which he struck out 14 batters in six innings with another masterpiece, throwing eight scoreless innings in a 2-0 Cleveland win over the Twins on Thursday, July 30, at Target Field.
The 25-year-old frustrated the Twins throughout, mostly limiting hard contact and keeping them off the base paths. Bieber retired 16 of the first 17 batters he faced.
“He pitched really well. He went out there and brought it to us,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “ … We have to bring it to him instead of allowing him to go out there and execute and do his thing.”
The Twins (4-2) had a runner reach scoring position just once, when Byron Buxton and Max Kepler recorded back-to-back hits in the sixth inning, but Bieber responded by striking out Josh Donaldson swinging at a knuckle curve and getting Jorge Polanco to line out to neutralize the threat.
Bieber struck out 13 batters, including Donaldson and catcher Mitch Garver three times each. Every Twins batter but Nelson Cruz and Luis Arraez struck out at least once. In the process, Bieber tied an MLB record with 27 strikeouts in his first two starts of the season and set a new American League record.
“I don’t think we figured him out. I felt like he did a great job,” Donaldson said. “On a scouting scale of 20-80, that was probably 70 command tonight with the heater. It was more show and he picked his spots and did a great job with the secondary stuff. I thought his breaking ball was phenomenal.”
And with Bieber throwing as well as he was, one crack in the Twins’ pitching was enough offense for Cleveland (5-2). Though Jose Berrios looked sharper than he did in his first start of the season, one pitch — an 0-2 pitch to Francisco Lindor — made the difference in the series opener.
“They took great at-bats. I could tell. But also, I was feeling much better this outing than before,” Berrios said. “…They got me on one pitch. Lindor hit a homer. But other than that, I tried to control the damage.
Lindor, a good friend of Berrios, took him out to right-center to give his team a two-run cushion in the third inning, bringing home Jose Ramirez, who singled before him on a 1-2 pitch. Berrios said he was trying to execute the pitch to Lindor higher than it ended up.
Berrios threw five innings, giving up three hits and recording six strikeouts. He he threw 96 pitches, the most of the season for him, and said he felt good physically after doing that.
“Ultimately it was a couple of two-strike fastballs, I believe, to some good hitters, that ultimately that’s how they came into their runs,” Baldelli said. “We were very pleased with the way Jose threw the ball. I think if he continues to throw the ball like that, it’s going to be a really nice year for him.”
Zack Littell followed Berrios into the game and threw two scoreless innings, helped out by a 1-2-3 double play to nab a runner at the plate to end the sixth and a Buxton diving catch in the seventh to rob Lindor of a run-scoring hit. Lewis Thorpe also threw two scoreless innings.
But though the bullpen held Cleveland in check, it was all about Bieber on Thursday.
“He went out there and executed what he wanted to,” Baldelli said. “He was sharp from the very beginning and made it tough on our guys.”