It helped that Francisco Lindor, Bieber’s All-Star teammate, wasn’t about to be outdone. Lindor hit two homers and the catcher that should probably be an All-Star, Roberto Perez, added the difference maker as the Indians came from behind to beat the Reds, 7-2, at Great American Ball Park.
The Indians (49-38), are 20-8 since June 4.They lead The Battle of Ohio, 2-1, this season. The Indians stayed 6.5 games behind the AL Central-leading Twins, who beat the Rangers, 7-4, Saturday. Cleveland is also a half-game behind Tampa Bay for the first AL Wild Card position.
Francisco Lindor opened the game with a moon-shot homer into the right field seats off starter Anthony DeSclafani’s 2-1 pitch. It was his fourth leadoff homer of the season and 16th of his career.
In the bottom of the first, leadoff man Jesse Winker sent Bieber’s 2-2 pitch screaming into center field. Rookie Oscar Mercado took off in hot pursuit and made a twisting leaping catch to rob Winker. Not a bd way to open the top and bottom of an inning.
“Frankie has set the tone for us during this streak,” said Mercado. “That’s why he does what he does. . .be great. He’s the heart and soul of this team. We go as he goes.”
The rest of the first did not go so well for Bieber. Eugenio Suarez singled with one out and Yasiel Puig sent his 20th homer into the seats in right field for a 2-1 lead.
Bieber recovered nicely. He held the Reds scoreless over the next seven innings, while waiting patiently for his offense to respond. They took their own sweet time, but it was worth the wait.
The Indians left the bases loaded in the fourth, but Lindor made it 2-2 with a homer off the right field foul pole with one out in the fifth. He has 14 homers for the season.
Bieber, with a first-pitch temperature of 90 degrees, was pitching so well that manager Terry Francona let him hit with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth. Jake Bauers and Perez hit consecutive two-out singles and Tyler Naquin was intentionally walked. Bieber (8-3, 3.45) grounded out to short, but he retired nine of the next 10 batters to get the Indians through eight innings. Not a bad trade-off.
“The easy line is he pitched like an All-Star,” Francona said. "Shoot, I thought he got better as the game progressed. He found his slider. It’s been two or three games where he’s been fighting to find the shape to it.
“In the fourth or fifth inning, he started to find it and that really helped.”
When Bieber left after eight innings and eight strikeouts, the Tribe was leading, 4-2, thanks to Perez. He went 4-for-5 Saturday with his fourth hit, a two-run homer to right field in the eighth off Michael Lorenzen (0-1) that shattered a 2-2 tie
In his last two games, Perez has hit a pair of two-run homers in the eighth inning. His two-run shot Wednesday night in Kansas City turned a 2-0 lead into a 4-0 victory. Saturday’s drive came at an even more opportune time.
He’s hit 16 homers in 62 games. He entered the season with 21 career homers in 296 games.
“When he hit the ball to right field, and then he drives it to right field, it makes him a much better hitter,” said Francona. “It makes him dangerous.”
Three of Perez’s four hits were to right field. The other was a single to center.
The Indians stretched things out in the ninth with three more runs. Bobby Bradley started the inning with a pinch-hit double. Jose Ramirez drew a bases-loaded walk and Bauer added a two-run single.
The Indians and Reds will enter the All-Star break after playing Sunday’s game at 1:15 p.m. Trevor Bauer (7-6, 3.74) will start for the Tribe, while Cincinnati goes with right-hander Tyler Mahle (2-8, 4.36). SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.
Bauer, who has won his last three decisions, allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Reds on June 11. Mahle, 0-3 in his last five starts, is 0-1 in his career against the Indians.