CLEVELAND -- After facing six batters on Friday night, Trevor Bauer walked off the mound to a chorus of cheers from the Progressive Field faithful. The ovation was less about the pitcher's performance than it was a response to what the outing could mean for October.Bauer was activated from the
CLEVELAND -- After facing six batters on Friday night, Trevor Bauer walked off the mound to a chorus of cheers from the Progressive Field faithful. The ovation was less about the pitcher's performance than it was a response to what the outing could mean for October.
Bauer was activated from the disabled list prior to the Tribe's 7-5 loss to the Red Sox and worked into the second inning in his first start since Aug. 11. It was step one in a process of determining whether there is enough time on the schedule to have Bauer positioned to return to the rotation for the American League Division Series.
"All things considered," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "I thought that was at the higher end of expectations."
Without Minor League games available, the AL Central champions had Bauer log an abbreviated appearance against Boston, which featured a watered-down lineup in the wake of clinching the AL East the night before in New York. Bauer, who is robotic in his routine, admitted that some pre-start jitters interrupted his sleep Thursday night.
"I had a good bit of adrenaline," Bauer said. "Generally, I sleep pretty well the night before a start, so it was kind of cool to be like a little kid again and looking forward to the tournament on the weekend, or the big game coming up."
The right-hander logged 34 pitches (17 strikes) over 1 1/3 innings, in which he scattered two singles, issued one walk and had an impressive strikeout against slugger J.D. Martinez.
After giving up consecutive singles in the second to Steve Pearce and Brock Holt, Bauer was pulled in favor of lefty Tyler Olson, who escaped the jam with a double-play grounder off the bat of Blake Swihart. Bauer then moved out to the bullpen in center field, working through a series of pitches -- simulating an additional inning -- to continue to build up his pitch count.
"I walked a guy in the bullpen," Bauer said, "so I threw my last batter out of the stretch. Just typical mind games you play with yourself, trying to get in a game situation as much as possible. But the majority of that was just to throw at high intent, so that I build that volume and then, hopefully, continue to have the mechanics come back."
On the year, Bauer is 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA in 26 starts, in which he has 215 strikeouts against 57 walks in 167 1/3 innings. According to Fangraphs' version of WAR, Bauer entered the night ranked third in the AL with 6.0, even after missing the past six weeks due to a stress fracture in his right fibula. That injury was the result of an ill-fated comebacker off the bat of Jose Abreu in Bauer's last start in August.
"He's one of the best pitchers," said Indians rookie Shane Bieber, who worked 4 2/3 innings in relief and allowed six runs. "It's really big for this team if he's able to come back and be his normal self, which I'm sure he will. We can do a lot of special things with him in our rotation."
Against the Red Sox, Bauer averaged 93.8 mph on his four-seamer in the first inning and saw that rate drop to 92.8 mph in the second, per Statcast™. Entering the game, he had a 94.6 mph average on that fastball this season. Bauer topped out at 95.5 mph against Boston, which saw his four-seamer (14), slider (seven), changeup (five), cutter (four), curveball (three) and two-seamer (one).
Prior to Friday's outing, Bauer logged a three-inning simulated outing against hitters on Tuesday, throwing roughly 60 pitches in the workout. If everything goes according to plan, the starter will start again this coming Tuesday on the road against the White Sox. Bauer would then be in line to potentially work for a third time on Sept. 30 in Kansas City in preparation for the ALDS, which begins Oct. 5.
"Everything's trending in a very positive direction," Bauer said.
As things stand right now, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco project to be Cleveland's Game 1 and Game 2 starters, respectively, for the ALDS, barring anything unexpected. Mike Clevinger figures to be behind them, with either Bieber or Bauer rounding out the rotation. If Bauer is cleared for that role, Bieber would likely shift to the bullpen for the playoffs.
Bauer smirked when asked about the fans' ovation after his early exit.
"That's odd," Bauer said. "Usually, if you get an ovation, it's either you did really well or you're on the road and they're cheering that you sucked. I didn't really know how to feel about this one, but I'm very thankful for the crowd, that they're happy that I'm back. I appreciate all of their support."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bauer vs. Martinez: Bauer's lone punchout came against Martinez, an AL MVP Award candidate, to open the second inning. The righty started with a 93-mph fastball up and away, returned with a curveball low in the zone and finished off the slugger with an 81-mph slider that tailed away from Martinez's swing.
"It was a good sequence," Bauer said. "Solid execution on that. It's probably the only at-bat of the night that I really executed really well. But I was encouraged with where my command was relative to what I thought it was going to be."
Streak stopper: With one out in the fourth, Josh Donaldson received a 1-2 fastball in the middle of the zone from Sale and crushed it out to left-center for a solo blast. The home run was Donaldson's second with the Indians, seventh overall on the season and fifth all-time off Sale. The blast also snapped a 35-inning scoreless streak and 75-inning homer-free streak by Boston's AL Cy Young contender.
• Larry Fitzgerald played role in Donaldson's rehab
Yan gone: Sale was charged with two runs in his 3 1/3 innings, with the second run charged to his line courtesy of a two-run homer by Yan Gomes in the fourth. The blast off Richard Hembree marked the 15th homer of the year for Cleveland's catcher and gave the Tribe a 3-1 lead at the time. Gomes finished a triple shy of the cycle and is now batting .330/.357/.505 in 30 games, dating back to Aug. 1.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Before things got away from the Tribe in the seventh, Francisco Lindor put his defensive skill on display once again. Steve Pearce opened the inning by sending a pitch from Bieber bouncing up the middle. Lindor ranged to his left and leaned to glove the roller before it found the outfield grass. While on the run, Lindor fired the ball to first base after a swift spin, nabbing Pearce for a highlight-reel out.
Prior to 2017, the last Indians pitcher to log at least 160 innings and post an ERA of 2.25 or lower was Gaylord Perry, who had a 1.92 ERA in 1972. Kluber (MLB-low 2.25 ERA in 203 2/3 innings) achieved the feat in '17 and now Bauer (2.21 ERA in 167 1/3 innings) has a shot at following suit this year.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger (12-8, 3.06 ERA) is slated to start for the Tribe on Saturday, when the Indians host the Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. Clevinger is 7-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 16 starts at home this season. Boston will counter with righty Rick Porcello (17-7, 4.30 ERA).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.