MINNEAPOLIS — The Cleveland Indians have what the Minnesota Twins covet.
An ace. A horse. A stud at the top of the rotation who can dominate a game.
Bomba Squad, meet Shane Bieber.
That's the Indians' starting pitcher who mowed through the Twins' lineup Thursday, July 30, like Nolan Ryan in his prime.
Funny, that comparison. Bieber struck out 13 Twins in a 2-0 Cleveland victory. That gives him 27 strikeouts in his first two starts of the season, breaking the Hall of Famer Ryan's 1978 American League record of 25 Ks in his first two starts.
Bieber tied the MLB record set by Brooklyn's Karl Spooner in his first two starts in 1954.
All against a lineup that hit a record number of home runs last season and supposedly improved this year with the addition of $92 million slugger Josh Donaldson.
It doesn't matter that Target Field was silent because there were no fans there due to the pandemic. Even if the place had been packed with 39,500, Bieber would've silenced them.
"He's had two starts, so I don't want to give him the Cy Young here, but in those two starts his command has been very good," said Donaldson, who Bieber struck out three times. "It's been elite command with every pitch he has."
The Twins are still hoping their Thursday starter, Jose Berrios, can be the ace Bieber has become. Berrios wasn't always efficient, but he battled for five innings and only gave up two runs on a Francisco Lindor homer in the third inning. Berrios' outing was markedly better than his season-opening start in Chicago.
"They got me tonight on one pitch," Berrios said. "We have to turn the page tonight and come out tomorrow and the next day and try to win the game."
But the difference between Bieber and Berrios, if they are both viewed as being No. 1 starters, was striking. Berrios should be commended for finding a way to get through five innings. Bieber was simply dominant.
His fastball command was pinpoint and he had the Twins flailing at low breaking balls out of the strike zone all night. Bieber retired 15 of 16 batters through five innings, striking out eight and allowing just two balls to be hit out of the infield. He threw just 55 pitches through five.
Bieber's final line: 8 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 13 strikeouts. He threw 102 pitches, a rarity in modern baseball.
It was a sight to behold, particularly in the modern era of goosed baseballs and home runs.
It's nice to know the oldest cliche in the game still applies: Good pitching beats good hitting.
The only time the Twins threatened was the sixth inning, when Byron Buxton singled with one out and Max Kepler followed with a slap line-drive single to left. The Twins had runners on first and second with Donaldson coming to the plate.
Donaldson battled, fouling off a tough 2-2 pitch to stay alive. But Bieber threw a breaking ball in the dirt, Donaldson chased, and that was that. Jorge Polanco lined out to end the inning.
Minnesota didn't sniff a chance against Bieber again.
This was the first game of 10 Minnesota will play against Cleveland this season. With the schedule cut to 60 games and Cleveland expected to battle the Twins for the AL Central title, every game carries increased significance.
And it's likely the Twins will see Bieber again.
"He went out there and brought it to us. ... We have to bring it to him instead of allowing him to go out there and execute," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge next time we face him," Donaldson said.
The first time wasn't particularly close. The Bombas were silenced by the ace, showing the value of having a pitcher of Bieber's stature at the top of a rotation. It's not something with which the Twins are familiar.