The chants of “Let’s go, Bieber!” rolled out of the Angel Stadium stands before Shane Bieber had even thrown a pitch. The raucous cheers continued all night long, and they culminated in that rarest of baseball honors: a curtain call for a visiting player.
Although the Cleveland Indians were on the road, Bieber was at home — and the kid from Laguna Hills definitely pitched like it.
Bieber threw seven stellar innings of five-hit ball in his first career start at his hometown stadium, and rookie Yu Chang hit his first major league homer in the Indians’ 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
Bieber (14-7), the Indians’ All-Star right-hander, is an Orange County native who grew up 20 minutes away from the ballpark where he collected Rally Monkey dolls as a kid.
“I got a little bit nostalgic pregame in the bullpen (when) they were playing Train, ‘Calling All Angels,'” Bieber said, referring to the Angels’ long-standing pregame theme song. “Just a lot of memories here. That was definitely special for me.”
This homecoming was well attended, too: Bieber had dozens of raucous fans — “at least 150 that we know of,” he said — repeatedly chanting his name from a section behind the visitors’ dugout at the Big A. Bieber’s parents organized tickets for much of the turnout from his hometown and from UC Santa Barbara, where the walk-on matured into a fourth-round draft pick.
The All-Star Game MVP struck out eight Angels without a walk while allowing only one run for the first time since July.
Bieber retired 17 of his final 18 hitters, and his cheering section serenaded him throughout the night. He even took a road curtain call after finishing the seventh inning with his eighth consecutive out.
“No, I’ve never seen that,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “It didn’t get in the way of his pitching, and it was kind of cool to see. I know how fond we are of him, but I thought it was a pretty cool moment.”
Chang hit a three-run homer and Jason Kipnis had a two-run shot for the Indians (84-61), who pulled right behind Oakland (84-60) for the second AL wild-card spot with their first back-to-back wins in September.
Albert Pujols hit his 655th homer and two-way prospect Jared Walsh added his first career homer for the Angels, who opened their penultimate homestand with their sixth loss in eight games.
Mike Trout sat out his second straight game with pain in his right foot for the Angels (67-78), who dropped 17 ½ games behind the A’s with 17 games to play. Los Angeles is one loss away from guaranteeing it will miss the postseason for the fifth consecutive season of Trout’s prime.
After Yasiel Puig drove in his 77th run during the first inning, Kipnis connected in the second for his 17th homer.
Later in the second, Bieber became the 422nd pitcher to give up a homer to Pujols, the 39-year-old veteran with two years left on his $240 million contract.
The game matched two local pitchers who graduated from high schools 2 miles apart. Bieber is two years older than 22-year-old Patrick Sandoval (0-3), who was born and raised in Mission Viejo.
The Angels are keeping Sandoval on a pitch count, and he was pulled with one out in the fourth inning after he gave up a single to Kipnis on his 61st pitch. Sandoval yielded five hits and three runs.
Bieber and Sandoval don’t know each other, and they don’t think they ever pitched against each other in high school, although Bieber’s father thinks they might have started different games in the same doubleheader.
“I don’t really know him at all,” Sandoval said. “I do know he’s a stud.”
Chang, the 16th Taiwan-born player in major league history, delivered his three-run shot in the sixth. The 24-year-old infield prospect is filling in for injured third baseman José Ramírez, who broke his hand last month. Chang is the fourth Taiwanese player to homer in the majors.
Walsh, a 26-year-old first baseman who hit 36 homers for Triple-A Salt Lake this season, connected in the eighth against Carlos Carrasco. Walsh also pitched in 13 games for the Bees.
“It was really exciting, especially off a guy like Carrasco with everything he’s accomplished,” Walsh said. “I was glad to get that monkey off my back.”
Indians: Puig and Oscar Mercado were both in the lineup after running into each other in the outfield in Minnesota on Sunday. Puig made the catch, and both stayed in that game after the dangerous collision.
Angels: Trout had a cryoablation procedure to deaden the tissue around the irritated nerve in his foot, manager Brad Ausmus said. The slugger could return later in the series.
Angels rookie José Suárez (2-5, 6.45 ERA) takes another shot at his first home victory when he faces fellow rookie Zach Plesac (7-6, 9.38 ERA), who is coming off a rough loss to the White Sox.
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