CLEVELAND — Leave it to Bieber, some early offense and effective relief work — finally.
Right-hander Shane Bieber continued his banner rookie season, the Indians scored four times within the first two innings and a beleaguered bullpen made the lead stand up Friday night in a 6-5 victory over the Yankees at Progressive Field.
The win, Cleveland’s first in eight games against New York dating to last year’s Division Series, came in front of 35,078 fans — a sellout — accounting for the largest crowd of the season.
It was a playoff atmosphere from start to finish, and Bieber was in control from the get-go in his seventh start, shutting out the Yankees on one hit over the first four innings. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and struck out six in seven-plus innings.
“He’s a good pitcher. He’s gonna become great,” All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor said of Bieber, who didn’t allow a hit in six at-bats against New York’s dangerous duo of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. “He’s learning and he’s very smart. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s going to compete. He’s going to give you everything he has.”
New York scored three times off Bieber in the fifth, but he retired six straight before allowing a leadoff double to Tyler Wade in the eighth and departing with Cleveland in front 6-3.
“He lost his release point, his stride got a little long for three or four hitters, but to his credit he reeled it back in and got them out,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think the kid has a ton of poise, along with being a really good pitcher.”
Bieber was in the comfort zone thanks to run support right off the rip.
The Indians scored once in the opening inning, then added three more in the second on doubles from Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley.
Cleveland’s offense answered New York’s three runs in the fifth with two in the bottom of the inning.
Brantley led off with a single and Jose Ramirez followed with an RBI triple. Yonder Alonso’s base hit scored Ramirez with the winning run.
“You know they’re coming,” Francona said of the Yankees. “They’re going to do that. They’re good, they’re talented and they play hard and they play until the end. What was huge was when it got to (a) three (run lead), we came back and got the two right back. That was really big.”
“I think tonight in particular, I owe a lot of it to the offense to be able to bounce back and pick me up right away,” Bieber said. “That does a lot for us as a team and it does a lot to the Yankees dugout to kind of kill that momentum. For them to be able to come back and put two more on the board and give me another three-run lead was huge.”
Left-hander Oliver Perez and righty Neil Ramirez rescued Bieber in the eighth, with Perez retiring Brett Gardner on a grounder that scored Wade to bring the Yanks within two runs.
Ramirez hit Judge with a pitch but recovered to strike out Aaron Hicks to end the inning.
“Credit to the bullpen going in there and doing their job,” Bieber said. “If you leave a runner on second with nobody out, he’s probably going to score, especially with a lineup like this. They did a fantastic job coming in and shutting it down. I’m lucky to have them.”
Cody Allen took the mound in the ninth for the first time since being credited with the loss after allowing six runs in the final inning Tuesday — and things began ominously.
Facing Stanton to start the ninth, Allen got ahead 1-2 before allowing a home run to the seats in right-center.
Greg Bird followed with a long single to right to put the tying run on base, but Allen got a huge double-play ball from Miguel Andujar. He walked the following batter before getting pinch hitter Didi Gregorius to pop out to Lindor to end the game.
“(Allen) left the ball over the plate and (Stanton) got the barrel to it,” Francona said. (Stanton is) so strong. Then (Allen) was able to bear down and make some pitches.”