Cleveland right-hander Shane Bieber, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, authored an historic Opening Day performance on Thursday, albeit in a losing effort on the road against the Detroit Tigers.
Bieber threw six innings and allowed three runs on five hits and three walks. His damage included a two-run home run by Miguel Cabrera, the 488th of his career. Bieber did strike out 12 batters over the course of the afternoon, which was notable because he had punched out 14 batters last Opening Day.
Why is that notable? According to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, those punchouts made Bieber just the fourth pitcher to ever notch multiple 12-plus strikeout games on Opening Day since 1900. The other three pitchers to do it were Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, and Randy Johnson. Each of those three did it twice apiece, same as Bieber.
Bieber’s entrance into the (somewhat arbitrary) record books aside, Cleveland fans didn’t have a ton to feel encouraged about on Thursday. Cleveland’s lineup was held off the board until the ninth inning by a combination of Matthew Boyd, Jose Cisnero, Daniel Norris, and Gregory Soto. Catcher Roberto Perez prevented the shutout with a two-run home run in the ninth that cut the Tigers lead to 3-2.
Even Bieber offered some reason for reservation: his fastball averaged 92 mph on Thursday, or nearly two mph lower than his average last season. It’s worth watching to see if Bieber’s velocity loss is genuine or the result of some combination of the weather (it was snowing throughout the game) and machine calibration error.
Provided Cleveland isn’t forced to alter its plans, and provided it doesn’t take advantage of multiple off days (including Friday, Tuesday, and Thursday), then Bieber will make his next start on April 9. That game will also be against the Tigers, though it will be played in Cleveland.