Trevor Bauer is an avid fan of the UFC and loves to add some entertainment whenever he’s on the mound. He has implemented Connor McGregor’s famous strut, he shows off a sword celebration after strikeouts, and he isn’t shy about letting out a roar after recording a big out.
In his first taste of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry, Bauer quickly immersed himself as the villain, cupping his right ear and raising his arms after being taken out of the game, encouraging the crowd at Oracle Park to boo even louder.
“They’re going to hate me anyway, so might as well lean into it,” Bauer said. “I like when the crowd is into it; it makes the moment feel bigger and I perform better in those moments. It just feeds me.”
But as much as Bauer enjoys the entertainment aspect of the game, what he has accomplished on the mound in his first six week as a Dodger has been everything the team hoped for when they signed him to a record three-year, $102 million deal this offseason. In the 2-1 win over the Giants on Friday, Bauer gave the Dodgers just about everything they needed.
The Dodgers have now won nine of their last 10 games and moved one game behind the Giants in the NL West standings.
“I’m sure that Giants fans will love to hate Trevor, and he’ll love that they hate him,” said Giants starter Alex Wood. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot more battles to come this year and moving forward, but it was a good game tonight. We just came up a little short.”
After taxing their bullpen during Thursday’s bullpen game, the Dodgers entered Friday’s series opener against the Giants with just four relievers out of the bullpen. One of the relievers -- Nate Jones -- was added to the active roster less than two hours before first pitch. The Dodgers needed a big start from Bauer in order to have a chance. He delivered.
Bauer allowed one run (unearned) and struck out 11 over 6 1/3 innings. While Bauer would’ve liked to be more efficient and not walk four, the right-hander gutted out 126 pitches, the most by any pitcher in the Majors this season and one shy of tying his career high. It was the sixth time this season that Bauer has pitched into the seventh. With his performance, he lowered his season ERA to 1.98, the fifth-lowest in the National League among qualifying starters.
“He was really good,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “The more you see him, I mean you just love the compete, the execution, the ability to make pitches when he needs to. We needed him to go deep tonight and he took that challenge, embraced it and left it all out there. Our guys fed off that.”
Through six innings, Bauer had thrown 113 pitches and it appeared that his night was over. But after a discussion with Roberts, Bauer was able to convince the skipper that he could go back out for another inning. Bauer walked Donovan Solano to begin the inning, but then bounced back to get Mike Tauchman swinging on a 96 mph fastball. Bauer said he could’ve kept going, if that’s what Roberts would’ve decided.
“I felt good; it wasn’t like I was tired. My velo was good,” Bauer said. “I should’ve gotten through the seventh, honestly. I just kind of cost myself a couple of mistakes.”
Of the 126 pitches, Bauer turned to his four-seam fastball more than any other pitch. He threw 76 heaters on Friday, recording 11 whiffs. His velocity averaged 94.1 mph, slightly above his 93.8 average so far this season.
“Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other guy,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler. “He had a fastball that really carried through the zone, and he attacked. What I thought was most impressive as the game wore on is his fastball kind of picked up in velocity. ... I thought it was a really impressive performance.”
Behind Bauer, the Dodgers were able to get just enough run support thanks to a Chris Taylor two-run blast off Giants starter Alex Wood in the third. It was Taylor’s team-leading fourth homer off a southpaw this season, his sixth overall. The bullpen also stepped up big, as Jones had a very successful debut with the Dodgers, tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Blake Treinen closed it out in the ninth.
It was the first of 19 matchups between the longtime rivals, but the Oracle Park crowd already has its new heel. And that’s just how Bauer likes it.
“I think the gamesmanship, the fun, the banter back-and-forth, he dishes it out and he can take it,” Roberts said. “It’s just great for the game. It’s a lot of fun.”