Bauer fans 8, but unable to limit damage

June 13th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- was one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues through his first 11 starts. Over his last three starts, however, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner has looked a bit more hittable.

After starting the season with a 2.07 ERA through 11 starts, Bauer has given up three or more earned runs in each of his last three starts, including four in the Dodgers’ 12-1 loss to the Rangers on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Bauer’s season ERA is now 2.64. The 12 runs and 17 hits were the most allowed by the Dodgers in a game this season.

“As the season goes along, you’re going to have outings like this. Things aren’t always going to go your way,” Bauer said. “As a competitor, you have to find a way to get around it and continue to be successful and give your team a chance to win. I just didn’t do a good enough job of that tonight.”

Bauer is right, and his overall work this season is still very solid. But maybe there are some reasons to be concerned. Bauer was a victim of the home run ball earlier this year, but in his last two starts, opposing lineups have been able to string along hits and record hard contact off the right-hander. That wasn’t the case early in the season.

Bauer allowed six hits in his last start against the Braves, which was a season high. That was topped on Saturday, as the Rangers recorded eight hard-hit balls and nine hits off Bauer. Four of the hits went for extra bases, including a two-run shot by Jonah Heim in the fourth inning.

Three of the four extra-base hits came off Bauer’s four-seam fastball, which has been one of the best pitches in the Majors over the last two seasons. Bauer also said that his curveball command wasn’t up to par on Saturday, which could directly correlate with some of his struggles with the fastball.

“I gotta land my curveball,” Bauer said. “I just need to be better about that.”

Bauer also dealt with some sloppy defensive plays behind him. He mentioned that it was tough to get in a rhythm after a wacky third inning that included a Mookie Betts error, Adolis García being ruled out at third after scoring, and a replay review after a ringing double by Nate Lowe.

But some of Bauer’s recent struggles could also be tied to his decrease in spin rate over his last two starts, particularly with his heater.

After seeing a decrease of 214 revolutions per minute from his season average on the four-seamer in the start against the Braves, the spin on Bauer’s fastball was 206 rpm below his season average on Saturday. His cutter, which he threw 25 times, also saw the spin decrease by 134 rpm. But despite the decrease in spin, Bauer has still recorded 32 whiffs in his last two starts. Now it’s just a matter of Bauer finding a way to limit the damage and return to the form the Dodgers grew accustomed to over the first two months of the season.

“I’m not concerned about it,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, when asked about Bauer’s decrease in spin rate. “I think it just comes down to making pitches.”