Chang Yu on Monday became the fourth Taiwanese to homer in the majors, but the 24-year-old Cleveland Indians infield prospect filling in for injured third baseman Jose Ramirez, who broke his hand last month, was upstaged by a local boy coming home.
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 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, while rookie Chang hit his first major league homer in the Indians’ 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
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 pre-game in the bullpen [when] they were playing Train, Calling All Angels,” Bieber said “Just a lot of memories here. That was definitely special for me.”
The 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 University of California, Santa Barbara, where the walk-on matured into a fourth-round draft pick.
The All-Star Game Most Valuable Player 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, the 16th Taiwanese to play in the major leagues, hit his three-run homer in the sixth inning, while Jason Kipnis also had a two-run shot for the Indians (84-61), who pulled right behind Oakland (84-60) for the second American League wild-card spot with their first back-to-back wins this month.
Albert Pujols hit his 655th home run and two-way prospect Jared Walsh added his first career homer for the Angels, who opened their penultimate homestand with their sixth defeat in eight games.
Also on Monday, the Mets mastered the Diamondbacks 3-1, the Yankees routed the Red Sox 5-0, the Astros thrashed the Athletics 15-0, the Braves beat the Phillies 7-2, the Brewers battered the Marlins 8-3, the Pirates rallied past the Giants 6-4 and the Cubs crushed the Padres 10-2.
Additional reporting by staff writer