CLEVELAND — In a 4-3 American League All-Star Game victory with no clear MVP on Tuesday, hometown favorite Shane Bieber, a right-handed starter for the Cleveland Indians, earned the honors after striking out the side in the fifth inning amid a Progressive Field-wide chant of his name.
The 24-year-old Bieber, once a walk-on at UC-Santa Barbara, caught Cubs catcher Willson Contreras looking on a 95 mph fastball, punched out Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte on an 84 mph curveball and froze Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. on an 86 mph slider.
Bieber is the third player in All-Star Game history to win the MVP award in his home ballpark, joining Pedro Martinez at Fenway Park in 1999 and Sandy Alomar Jr. also in Cleveland in 1997.
During the seven-pitch at-bat against Acuña, the crowd of 36,747 chanted, “Let’s go, Bieber!” and he responded with a strikeout that prompted Indians manager Terry Francona to clap his hands excitedly. The victory extended the AL’s All-Star Game winning streak to seven games.
“I really didn’t know what to think,” Bieber said of winning MVP. “Kinda lost all feeling in my body. But it’s an incredible feeling now. Now that it’s kind of sinking in, just to be able to do it in front of the hometown crowd in my first All-Star Game is definitely not something I expected.”
Bieber wasn’t named to the All-Star team until Friday, when he replaced Rangers starter Mike Minor, who wasn’t eligible to play because he pitched Sunday.
Bieber is the first pitcher to win All-Star Game MVP since Mariano Rivera in 2013 and is just the fifth pitcher to do so in the past 40 years, joining Martinez, Roger Clemens (1986) and LaMarr Hoyt (1985). Only Bieber, Rivera and Juan Marichal (1965) have taken home MVP honors without earning a win.
Bieber — no relation to Justin Bieber, for those wondering — beat AL teammates Michael Brantley and Joey Gallo for the honors by preserving a 1-0 lead against the final three hitters in the National League’s stout lineup. Brantley staked the AL to the advantage in the stadium where he spent the first 10 years of his career with a second-inning RBI double off Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw that scored Astros teammate Alex Bregman.
The 32-year-old Brantley, who joined Houston as a free agent this winter, sliced a 91 mph fastball from Kershaw into the left-center-field gap to open the scoring and hand Bieber the one-run lead he held.
“He is a phenomenal pitcher,” Brantley said. “He is gaining experience and getting better and better every time he goes out. He competes at a high level. I am so proud of him. I can’t wait to see him and tell him congratulations again. That was fun to watch.”
The award easily could have gone to Gallo, the Rangers slugger whose solo homer proved the decisive run. The 25-year-old Gallo, in the midst of a breakout season that has helped propel the surprising Rangers into contention in the AL West, walloped a first-pitch fastball from San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith into the right-field stands.
The run gave the AL a 4-1 lead that it held after a shaky eighth inning from Indians closer Brad Hand shrunk the advantage to one run. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth inning to end a game in which the NL punched out 16 times.
With injuries sidelining stalwart starters Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger and a leukemia diagnosis keeping starter Carlos Carrasco out since the end of May, Bieber has proved a vital part of the Indians rotation.
In 112⅓ innings this season, Bieber has struck out 141 and walked just 23 to go with an 8-3 record and a 3.45 ERA.
In the fifth inning, during a “Stand Up To Cancer” moment that honored those who have fought the disease, Bieber stood alongside Indians All-Star teammates Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Hand with Carrasco, a widely respected 32-year-old nicknamed Cookie.
“It was unbelievable,” Bieber said. “Cookie, I’ve only known him for a year, but I can say for certain that he is one of the best teammates and best people I have ever met. Only he could turn what he is doing into a positive light, and he is going to the children’s hospital, and he is spending time with them, and he is kind of reversing it on its heels and turning it into a positive light. … We are here for him, we love him, and we are standing with him.”
Bieber’s rapid ascent since the Indians chose him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft has been aided by a significant rise in fastball velocity. He joined the Indians in May 2018 after just 50 games pitched in the minor leagues and has excelled this year, with four double-digit strikeout games, tied for fifth in the major leagues.
“I am just trying to throw strikes,” Bieber said. “I couldn’t really feel my body that much because, like I said, the electricity and the atmosphere we had going, but also you didn’t want to leave a cookie over the plate because these guys are so good, and they will take advantage of it. Really just tried to fill up the zone as much as I could and go out there and get three outs. That was the main agenda.”
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
Nats’ Turner hits for another cycle against Rockies
On Tuesday night, the Nationals shortstop hit for the cycle during Washington’s 11-1 win over Colorado, the second time in his career that he’s accomplished the feat versus the Rockies. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s just the third player in MLB history to hit for the cycle multiple times against the same team. Fred Clarke of the Pittsburgh Pirates had two cycles against the Reds (1901, 1903), and Christian Yelich did it twice last year, also against Cincinnati.
Turner led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run against Colorado starter Peter Lambert. In the second inning, he grounded a single off Lambert for a single. Facing Lambert again in the fifth, Turner hit a liner down the right field line that glanced off Charlie Blackmon’s glove and rolled into the corner for a triple. After grounding into an inning-ending double play against lefty reliever Sam Howard in the sixth, Turner came up in the seventh against righty Jairo Diaz and laced an RBI double to the gap in right-centerfield.
Turner is the 26th player in major-league history to hit for multiple cycles in his career. He previously did it on April 25, 2017 at Coors Field. In 18 career games against Colorado, the 26-year old speedster is now batting .386 with 16 extra-base hits.
Of the 10 cycles that the Rockies have now allowed in their history, Turner’s is the first one to be accomplished away from Coors Field.
Earlier this season, Turner missed six weeks due to a fractured right index finger that he suffered as the result a hit-by-pitch. In 60 games with Washington this year, he’s hitting .286 with eight home runs and 20 stolen bases.
Padres vs. Mets – Game Recap – July 23, 2019
The 36-year-old Cano drove in all five runs and went 4 for 4. Vargas pitched one-hit ball for six shutout innings, possibly enhancing his trade value.
Cano began the day batting just .243 with six homers in his first season with the Mets. Yet before the game, manager Mickey Callaway expressed confidence that Cano would produce, putting him in the category of “Hall of Fame hitters.”
Cano homered three times in a game for the first time in his career. It was just the third three-homer game ever by a Mets player at home — Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis both did it in July 2015.
After singling in the first, Cano made it 1-0 in the fourth with his first home run at Citi Field since early April.
Of Cano’s nine homers this year, five have come since the All-Star break. This was his 23rd career multihomer game and first since 2017 with Seattle.
Yoenis Cespedes was the previous Mets player to hit three homers, doing it in 2017. The feat has been accomplished by 13th different Mets players, with Cespedes doing it twice.
Vargas (5-5) put on a pitching clinic, getting the San Diego hitters to consistently flail away.
The 36-year-old lefty permitted only a single by Eric Hosmer in the fifth, struck out eight and walked three. Rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. struck out three times and Manny Machado swung at a strike three that bounced.
Several scouts were at Citi Field, and no doubt the performance Vargas piqued their interest as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
Vargas’ hardest fastball was clocked at 84.6 mph — Paddack’s slowest changeup came in a tick faster 84.7.
The anticipated showdown between rookie stars Pete Alonso and Paddack didn’t amount to much — the slugging Alonso walked twice and grounded out against the young fireballer.
Padres: LHP Adrian Morejon “should be available” to pitch in relief during this three-game series, manager Andy Green said. The 20-year-old Cuban made his major league debut Sunday at Wrigley Field, allowing one run and three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Green said the Padres will consider using him as an opener over the weekend at home vs. the Giants.
Mets: Major league batting leader Jeff McNeil was hit in the right elbow by a Paddack pitch in the fifth. McNeil was checked by a trainer and stayed in. … RHP Zack Wheeler (shoulder impingement) threw batting practice on the field and could be activated Friday to pitch against the Pirates. “I’m 100 percent. Ready to go,” he said. Callaway said Wheeler, who last started on July 7, will be on a pitch count of 75-85 pitches. Wheeler (6-6, 4.69 ERA) has been the subject of trade rumors leading up to the July 31 deadline. “Last year was the same way,” he said.
Padres: RHP Dinelson Lamet (0-2, 5.14 ERA) makes his fourth start of the season. He won his major league debut in 2017 at Citi Field and went 7-8 overall, then missed last year after Tommy John surgery.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (7-4, 4.36) is 4-0 in his last nine starts.
Nationals’ Scherzer on track for Thursday return
“He felt good today,” manager Davey Martinez said of Scherzer, who threw a bullpen session Monday prior to the opener of a four-game series between the Nationals and Rockies getting rained out. That contest has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Wednesday, with the finale coming Thursday afternoon.
Assuming Scherzer doesn’t suffer any setbacks between now and then, he would take the hill in the finale.
Scherzer has been dealing with an inflamed bursa sac below his right shoulder and has not pitched since July 6, when he tallied 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals. One week later, the Nats placed him on the injured list, retroactive to July 10.
On Tuesday, Martinez said the Nationals considered the calendar for the remainder of the regular-season schedule, as well as the postseason, before landing on Thursday as the likely return date for Scherzer.
“We actually sat down and looked at the schedule, and that’s basically how we came up with Thursday,” said the Nats’ second-year skipper. “I went all the way ’til the wild-card game. I’m hoping that we’re not the wild-card team. But we sat down and mapped everything out from that day.”
Washington began the day 6.5 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East, and in possession of the top wild-card spot in the NL. If Scherzer is able to go on Thursday, he would then line up to start in all three of his team’s remaining series against the Braves, as well as in Washington’s lone remaining series against the third-place Phillies. He’d also be in position to take the mound in a potential NL wild-card game.
A three-time Cy Young winner, Scherzer has been one of the game’s most durable hurlers, having made at least 30 starts in all 10 of his full seasons since debuting in 2008. Since signing a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals prior to the 2015 season, the 34-year-old righty had made only one other trip to the injured list, in August of 2017.
This season, Scherzer is 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA. In 129.1 innings, he has recorded 181 strikeouts, most in the National League. In June, prior to hitting the shelf, he went 6-0 with a 1.00 ERA and was named the NL Pitcher of the Month.
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