CLEVELAND (AP) Shane Bieber could be down to a handful of starts with the Guardians.
If so, he's going to make the most of them.
Bieber had his most dominant outing this season, striking out nine while not allowing a run over seven innings and Andrés Giménez homered in a 5-0 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday.
Bieber (5-3) gave up just three hits, walked two and was in command from the outset. The right-hander came in with only eight strikeouts combined in his previous three starts before matching his season-high set against Detroit on May 9.
Bieber looked more like the 2020 Cy Young Award version of himself than the one who rarely overpowers hitters anymore.
“He’s kind of painting up there,” said Cleveland slugger Josh Bell, who also homered. “When he's locked in like that, it's definitely fun to watch.”
Bieber has been the subject of trade speculation as the defending AL Central champions consider whether to move the 28-year-old, who is only under team contractual control through 2024. It appears the chance to sign him long-term has passed, leaving the other options to hang on to Bieber or try to get something for him.
Bieber said the external noise hasn't affected him.
“It's my job to be able to block those things out and go out there ultimately just compete,” he said. "That’s one thing that I love to do and that’s compete against players around the league and against other teams.
“So that was my one focus and I was able to feel that and fall into a rhythm. And that’s kind of that feeling that is easy to fall in love with. My focus is on my teammates right now and my family and going out there and giving my best each and every day.”
Trevor Stephan and closer Emmanuel Clase pitched an inning apiece to finish the four-hitter.
Giménez staked Bieber to a 2-0 lead with his second-inning homer off Brandon Bielak (3-3) and Bell added a solo shot in the fourth as the surging Guardians took a series from Houston for the first time since 2017. Cleveland has won six of eight and 10 of 16,
Bieber had little trouble with a Houston lineup missing All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve (rest) and MLB RBIs leader Yordan Alvarez (injured).
Houston only got one runner to second off Bieber, but Yainer Diaz's leadoff double in the fifth was wasted as Cleveland's ace struck out two and got a force.
Astros manager Dusty Baker has seen Bieber dominate before and said his slider is especially devastating on young hitters.
“He’s a former Cy Young guy," Baker said. "He doesn’t have the velocity he once had, but he still has good command of all his pitches - especially his slider.”
Giménez connected for his first homer in nearly one month in the second, driving a 1-0 pitch from Bielak over the wall in right after Bell reached on a broken-bat blooper. The Guardians have been looking for more power from Giménez, who has just four homers after hitting 17 in 2022.
Bell made it 3-0 in the fourth with his fifth homer, a 426-foot drive into the bullpens in center field.
Giménez was lifted in the sixth inning as a precaution with left leg tightness.
Manager Terry Francona said Giménez felt a cramp while running out a fly to center in the fourth, and the trainers felt it best to pull him. The team is off Monday, and there's hope some added rest will allow him to play Tuesday.
Cleveland's offensive struggles seem to be in the rearview mirror - for now. The Guardians have collected at least 10 hits in six straight games for the first time since 2018.
Baker had been hopeful Alvarez could be back in 10 days, but said “probably not” when asked if that timetable seemed realistic.
“That’s a big man with some big muscles to heal,” Baker cracked.
Alvarez was leading the majors with 55 RBIs when he strained his right oblique during an at-bat against Toronto on Thursday. Alvarez is batting .272 with 17 homers. He reached base in 19 straight games before getting hurt.
Houston rookie Grae Kessinger collected his first major league hit, a chopper off the plate in the fifth that Cleveland third baseman Gabriel Arias tried to barehand.
Kessinger, who was called up earlier this week, is the grandson of Don Kessinger, a six-time All-Star shortstop with the Cubs.
Astros: LHP Matt Gage was recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land and was immediately used. He replaced Bielak in the sixth and shut down a none-out, bases-loaded situation with a strikeout and double play. Gage was brought up after Ryne Stanek went on the bereavement/family emergency list an hour before Saturday's game.
Guardians: RHP Cal Quantrill seemed to throw without any issues in the outfield before the game as Cleveland's training and medical staff observed. Quantrill has been out since June 2 with shoulder inflammation.
Astros: A welcomed day off before opening a three-game series at home against Washington on Tuesday. RHP Hunter Brown (5-3, 3.69 ERA) will start the opener against Nationals LHP Patrick Corbin (4-6, 4.89 ERA).
Guardians: Head West and open a three-game set in San Diego on Tuesday with rookie RHP Tanner Bibee (2-1, 3.05) starting against Padres RHP Joe Musgrove (3-2, 4.35).
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