Photo: USA Today

The Guardians looked to build off their 3-game sweep of the Royals and got the first one in a three-game series at Camden Yards, a place they’ve struggled out historically as a strong outing by Shane Bieber and run support by Owen Miller led the Guardians to a 6-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Guardians (23-24) 6 – Orioles (22-32) 3. WP: Shane Bieber (3-3), LP: Bruce Zimmermann (2-2), SV: Emmanuel Clase (8)

 Bieber carries no-hit bid into 6th

Shane Bieber has really started to look like the Ace he’s been in the past over the course of the last couple of games. Friday night at Camden Yards was no different as Bieber put together easily his strongest performance of the season. 

“I feel like each start, we’re getting closer and closer to where we need to be and where I want to be,” Bieber explained. “ Felt good to get through the first inning, and then stepped on the gas from there.”

With two men out in the sixth inning, up came Trey Mancini. Up to that point, Bieber was throwing a no-hitter, he had only walked two batters and had struck out eight. Mancini then singled into right field on the first pitch of the at-bat, ending Bieber’s chance of carrying a no-hitter in the seventh. However, no no-hitter or not, Bieber still dazzled on the mound. He struck out a season high 11 batters in seven innings pitched, the 23rd time Bieber has struck out 10+ in a game and the second time this season. 

“I thought tonight more than any start we’ve seen, he looked in command,” Francona said. “He stayed in his delivery.”

While his velocity was low as it’s been accustomed to this season, he was getting the highest vertical break of the season, especially on his knuckle-curve, which had an average break of 53 inches. 

“I don’t care what the radar gun said, the fastball had life,” Francona praised. “His slider was good.”

He went with a three-pitch approach of a slider, 4-seam fastball and the knuckle-curve. He had a very high whiff rate of 44%, with 23 swings and misses by the Orioles batters. 

“I think the slider took a little bit, kind of found it there in the middle innings,” Bieber said. “I was just kind of feeling a few things out with my delivery but was able to get comfortable from there on.”

In his last four starts since giving up seven runs to the Blue Jays on May 5, Bieber has gone six innings, seven, eight and seven. He’s starting to last much longer and really get back into that normal season feel, which brings much needed relief to the bullpen as they can throw out their top relievers into shorter outings. While it does show two runs allowed on the scoresheet, those two runs came when he was already out of the game after a two-run double by Mancini off of Enyel De Los Santos. 

“I hate when his runs get given up, especially with the way he pitched.”

If Bieber continues to look like this, the Guardians are in great shape for the next couple of weeks with a long slate of winnable games still upcoming. 

 Owen Miller’s career day 

The Guardians scored six runs on 14 hits against the Orioles. All six of them came from two people, Josh Naylor who had two, and Owen Miller, who tied a career high with 4 runs batted in. 

Miller, who had a rough stretch in the middle of May as a batting average that stood at .352 on May 8 dipped to a season low of .269 on May 28, has started to pick things back up as with three hits on the afternoon, now has nine hits over his last seven games. Miller led off the scoring in the 1st inning when he doubled on a line drive to left that scored Amed Rosario and José Ramírez. In the top of the third, Miller once again delivered with another 2-run hit, this one a single in which Myles Straw scored and Ramírez stole the show as he ran all the way from first to home and beat the tag of Adley Rutschman to extend the Guardians lead to four. 

“We started off hots with the bat and when you keep rolling and get the lineup up and hitting again, it’s something you always want,” Miller said. 

The ball was coming off of Miller’s bat hot. All three of his hits came off the bat at over 100 miles per hour, with his single registering at 105.5, the second highest of the night. Miller’s quick swing allows him to get good exit velocity.

Hedges is showing his value

Ask anyone in the Guardians clubhouse, they love what Austin Hedges brings to the table. The managers love him for how good of a teammate he is. The pitcher’s love working with him because of his high frame rating of 78% and his ability to effectively bring a pitch back into the strike zone. He has made some truly fine defensive plays the last few weeks and his steal rate, which was a concern early on, has pretty much gone away recently. While his bat has always been a concern and will be as long as is still under .200, he did come up with two hits on the night and even has three in his last two games. Terry Francona has always said we welcome offense from anybody, but that it’s even better when Hedges is able to do it because of the value he brings defensively. Hedges did get hurt late in the game running and was taken out for Luke Maile. Francona assured people after the game that it was more precautionary. 

“He just felt his quad a little bit,” Francona explained. “We just wanted to be smart. I think from talking to James, our trainer, after the game, I think we dodged it a little bit. Maile was going to catch tomorrow anyway.”

Baserunning plays a part

One thing Terry Francona has always emphasized: the importance of base running. When you get on base, you need to be able to be quick and advance any way possible. Whether by stealing, advancing from first to third on a single into the outfield, or tagging up properly. The base running by the Guardians Friday night was one of the key reasons they were able to score or get men in scoring position.

“We ran the bases very well early,” Francona pointed out. “Intelligent, and it set up our hitting and got us on the board with multiple runs.”

As mentioned earlier, José Ramírez had the best example of base running when he advanced from first, all the way home to score on a single by Owen Miller in the third inning. Francona said his ability to still do plays like that while being a super star is what separates him from the rest.

“I told Sarbaugh there got luck stopping him there,” Francona chuckled. “His clock, his vision and we get to see it every day. It’s pretty special. Most guys who are that good, you don’t see them go on contact much or slide at home plate, but Josey craves that.”

The Guardians have now won four in a row and look to make it five on Saturday as they now lead the White Sox by 1.5 games but still trail the Twins by 4.5 for the AL Central lead.

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