CLEVELAND — In a 4-3 American League All-Star Game victory Tuesday night with no clear MVP, hometown favorite Shane Bieber, a right-handed starter for the Cleveland Indians, earned the honors after striking out the side in the fifth inning amid a Progressive Field-wide chant of his name.
The 24-year-old Bieber, once a walk-on at UC-Santa Barbara, caught Cubs catcher Willson Contreras looking on a 95 mph fastball, punched out Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte on an 84 mph curveball and froze Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. on an 86 mph slider.
Bieber is the third player in All-Star Game history to win the MVP award in his home ballpark, joining Pedro Martinez at Fenway Park in 1999 and Sandy Alomar, also in Cleveland, in 1997.
During the seven-pitch at-bat against Acuña, the crowd of 36,747 chanted “Let’s go, Bieber!” and he responded with a strikeout that prompted Indians manager Terry Francona to clap his hands excitedly. The victory extended the AL’s All-Star Game winning streak to seven games.
Bieber wasn’t named to the All-Star team until Friday, when he replaced Rangers starter Mike Minor, who wasn’t eligible to play because he pitched Sunday. With injuries sidelining stalwart starters Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger, and a leukemia diagnosis keeping starter Carlos Carrasco out since the end of May, Bieber has proved a vital part of the Indians’ rotation.
In 112⅓ innings this season, Bieber has struck out 141 and walked just 23 to go along with an 8-3 record and 3.45 ERA.
“I really didn’t know what to think,” Bieber said of receiving MVP honors. “Kinda lost all feeling in my body. But it’s an incredible feeling now. Now that it’s kind of sinking in, just to be able to do it in front of the hometown crowd in my first All-Star Game is definitely not something I expected.
“Especially being added to the game five days, four to five days ago. Just to do it in front of the hometown crowd was extremely special to me. They definitely helped me tonight.”
Bieber — no relation to Justin Bieber, for those wondering — beat out AL teammates Michael Brantley and Joey Gallo for the honors by preserving a 1-0 lead against the final three hitters in the National League’s stout lineup. Brantley had staked the AL to it in the stadium where he spent the first 10 years of his career with a second-inning RBI double off Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw that scored his Astros teammate Alex Bregman.
The 32-year-old Brantley, who joined the Astros as a free agent this winter after spending a decade with the Indians, sliced a 91 mph fastball from Kershaw into the left-center-field gap to open the scoring.
The award could easily have gone to Gallo, the Rangers slugger whose solo home run that proved the decisive run. The 25-year-old Gallo, in the midst of a breakout season that has helped propel the surprising Rangers into contention in the AL West, walloped a first-pitch fastball from San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith into the right-field stands.
The run staked the AL a 4-1 lead that it held after a shaky eighth inning from Indians closer Brad Hand shrunk the advantage to one run. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth to end a game in which the NL punched out 16 times.
Bieber joins Juan Marichal (1965) and Mariano Rivera (2013) as the only pitchers to win All-Star Game MVP without earning the win, which went to Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday night.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
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