Bauer human after all, blitzed by Tigers

Righty fans 7 in 5 2/3 frames, but yields several hard-hit balls

April 10th, 2019

DETROIT -- ’s historic start came to an end against the unlikeliest of teams. After becoming the first pitcher to allow just one hit through a pair of five-plus-inning starts to open a season, Bauer struck out seven but was shelled for four runs on 10 hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings in a 4-1 loss Wednesday afternoon against Detroit.

The Tigers entered the game with an MLB-low .567 team OPS, but they went to work right away on Bauer. With two outs in the first inning, Niko Goodrum roped a fastball into the first row of the right-field seats for a two-run homer. Bauer scattered four hits over the next four innings, but he was chased in the sixth on a two-out RBI single by Josh Harrison.

Bauer spoke with reserved frustration after the game, remarking that a couple instances of weak contact extended innings and cost him in the box score.

“The last ball I gave [Harrison] just pounded into the ground and bounced 800 times up the middle,” Bauer said. “Just found a hole.”

It’s true that Bauer was on the wrong end of some soft-contact hits, but Detroit put the barrel to the ball on a handful of occasions, too. The Tigers had five balls in play with an exit velocity of 100-plus mph, which is the most Bauer has allowed in one start since July 15, 2018.

And Bauer’s slider, which has been his best swing-and-miss pitch the past three seasons, according to Statcast, yielded just one whiff on Wednesday.

“I think he made a few more mistakes than he's used to making, and we took advantage of them, which was huge,” said Detroit catcher John Hicks, who homered off Bauer in the sixth.

The combination of mistake pitches, deep counts (including three full-count battles with Miguel Cabrera) and some two-out rallies forced Bauer to labor through 5 2/3 innings, throwing 115 pitches. He’s used to topping the 100-pitch mark -- in fact, he did it 25 times last year -- but not in such a short span.

On the other side, the Indians did very little to make Tigers starter work. He allowed no more than one baserunner in any of the first five innings. Cleveland did threaten in the sixth, when hit an RBI double to represent the go-ahead run, with Carlos Santana at third. But Boyd froze Jake Bauers on an outer-third fastball to strand the runners and maintain a 2-1 lead.

“That’s what he’s been doing against a lot of teams since the middle of last year,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s been one of the best pitchers in the game. Maybe kind of under the radar with some people.”

Bauers walked to load the bases with two outs in the eighth and Cleveland trailing by three. But pinch-hitter Greg Allen grounded out to extinguish the chance.

The loss snapped the Indians’ five-game win streak, a stretch in which they’d allowed no more than two runs in any game. That type of stinginess is unsustainable, as was Bauer’s historic pace. Still, his 2.29 ERA and 11 strikeouts per nine are more than respectable numbers so far.

With that in mind, the outspoken All-Star opted to keep a positive perspective after his rough outing.

“It’s just a matter of figuring out what they’re doing and adjusting to it,” Bauer said. “And I’ll do that. But if you look at the three-game span, I’m off to a pretty darn good start.”