'An elite pitcher': Bauer nets another 10 K's

May 16th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- It was a hectic day for the Dodgers, to say the least.

During the afternoon, the Dodgers placed AJ Pollock on the injured list with a left hamstring strain. They also reportedly came to terms with future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols on a Major League deal that will not be official for at least a few days.

The busy Saturday continued into the evening. Los Angeles acquired infielder/outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo from the Rays to bolster its bench, and Corey Seager left the game after a hit-by-pitch to his right hand and will miss an extended period of time after X-rays revealed a fracture.

But in the midst of all the pandemonium, the one thing that felt very normal for the Dodgers was knowing they had a good chance of winning with on the mound. That came to pass, as Bauer delivered another stellar performance, striking out 10 and tossing seven scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 7-0 win over the Marlins on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

Bauer has now won all three of his starts at Dodger Stadium, allowing just two earned runs over 20 innings of work (0.90 ERA). He has also allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight consecutive starts, tying a career high. His 77 strikeouts on the season lead the National League.

“He’s an elite pitcher,” said Dodgers catcher Will Smith. “He’s going to win us a lot of ballgames this year and he’s going to help us a lot in October.”

Run support has been tough to come by for Bauer, as the Dodgers had scored a combined five runs in his last three starts. That wasn’t a problem on Saturday, as the Dodgers scored two runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and tacked on three in the eighth for insurance.

That was more than enough for the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.

Bauer didn’t need much time to get going against the Fish. He struck out the side in the first on 17 pitches, flashing his elite four-seam fastball to get Miguel Rojas and Corey Dickerson, while Jesús Aguilar fell victim to the wipeout slider. In the second inning, the first two batters, Garrett Cooper and Isan Díaz, suffered the same fate, both getting rung up by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild.

The dominance with the fastball continued throughout the night for the Dodgers’ right-hander, as Bauer sprinkled in a handful of two-seamers to help him record seven of his 10 strikeouts with either a four-seam or a two-seam fastball. The rest of his repertoire was also clicking, helping him record 21 whiffs, the third most of his career and the most in any start this season.

It was the third time this year that Bauer has recorded 10 strikeouts. He has punched out nine or more in six of his nine starts. Bauer, however, feigned being upset that he fell two strikeouts short of hitting his pregame goal of 12 punchouts.

“My command was pretty darn good all night," said Bauer. "My body felt really good coming into the start, I knew I was going to have my really good stuff. Ball was jumping out of my hand early, so the velocity was good. I think the game plan we had was really good as well, so it’s a pretty good combination when you have all three of those things going.”

Bauer joked that he was hiding from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts so he could let him go back out for the eighth inning despite throwing 113 pitches. But Bauer’s ability to give the Dodgers seven innings is particularly important because the team will deploy a bullpen game in Sunday’s series finale against the Marlins. Garrett Cleavinger, Blake Treinen and Joe Kelly combined for the last six outs, giving the Dodgers a whole set of weapons for Sunday.

After his last start against the Angels, Bauer voiced his displeasure about the losing streak the team was on at the time. He helped the Dodgers win their fourth consecutive game with yet another stellar performance, even on a chaotic day.

“He was really good, we needed him to go deep tonight,” Roberts said. “He gave us what we needed tonight. Very sharp, a lot of punchouts and just in complete command all night long.”