Yeah, yeah — you say “Pitchers duel! Pitchers’ duel!” complete with exclamation marks, the baseball gods with their annoying little sense of humor are apt to create an 11-9 game with both starters shellacked by the fourth. But maybe, just maybe, those pesky deities have already enjoyed themselves enough so far this season, both with and against the White Sox, that they’ll let this one play out as expected.
After all, tonight’s game is Lucas Giolito vs. Shane Bieber, a made-for-a-duel matchup if ever there was one, a Cy Young winner-to-be vs. a Cy Young who already is, both in their primes. And since neither offense has been much good so far, the pitching really ought to dominate.
Not that either of the stars has been completely dominant in all statistics thus far in 2021. Giolito sports a 4.22 ERA in two starts, albeit that his 1.83 FIP shows how grievously he has been harmed by the godawful Sox defense even when the plays aren’t actually deemed errors by fielder-generous official scorers. Bieber is 0-1 with a 3.65 ERA (two whole points higher than his 2020 performance) and not-all-that-much-better FIP of 3.06, the result of less-than-stellar control and two dingers.
And not that their history against each other necessarily indicated they are Hall-of-Famer Baseball Persons. Last August 9, Bieber gave up homers to José Abreu and James McCann and a total of three runs in six innings, Giolito walked five and got charged with two runs in seven, in what ended up a 5-4 victory for the bad guys in 10.
But, oh, the whifferinos! Bieber has struck out 24 in 12 1⁄3 innings so far, Giolito a comparatively meager 18 in 10 2/3.
So, if you like to see grown men with big muscles ignominiously drag their bats and their butts back to their benches, this is a game you don’t want to miss.
Bieber won’t be facing the man of the hour (and day, week and month), since Tony La Russa has chosen to DH Jake Lamb instead of Yermín Mercedes, the man who has singlehandedly raised the Sox team batting average from a pathetic .208 to a so-so .235. He also won’t be facing Andrew Vaughn, which is probably a good thing for Vaughn.
Unsurprisingly, the Indians lineup doesn’t include Yu Chang, who apparently thought he was in a snowball fight instead of a baseball game in the ninth last night and lost the game by trying to knock off Yasmani Grandal’s helmet, which showed the baseball gods’ humor at work (apparently followed by vicious, racist tweets by either fans or losers of bets, which shows the gods don’t have everything covered as well as they should).
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 Central, with the forecast for a nippy 53 degrees and wind out of the west at game time. NBC Sports Channel has the TV coverage, so you shouldn’t have to go cussing your way through your 1000+ cable channels to try to find it, as you had to do last night.
And, while one doesn’t normally wish children misfortune, it would be awfully nice if at some point Bieber is pulled for a reliever in the middle of an inning, and as he trudges to the dugout a towheaded boy in Cleveland gear races down to the screen pleading, “Shane! Shane! Come Back!”