WASHINGTON -- The pairing of Trevor Bauer and catcher Chris Gimenez has been one of the feelgood storylines of this season for the Indians. On and off the field, the two have formed a bond, one that has helped the pitcher progress throughout what has the makings of the best
WASHINGTON -- The pairing of Trevor Bauer and catcher Chris Gimenez has been one of the feelgood storylines of this season for the Indians. On and off the field, the two have formed a bond, one that has helped the pitcher progress throughout what has the makings of the best season of his career.
One day before Cleveland's 3-1 victory over the Nationals on Tuesday, Bauer and Gimenez even played catch on the team's scheduled off-day. They did not head to Nationals Park for the workout, but to a local park in our nation's capital, where the duo focused on Bauer's fastball command.
So, when Gimenez was not in the lineup to catch Bauer for Tuesday's game, it was unexpected.
"I was a little surprised to see that," Bauer admitted. "But, obviously, it turned out well. It got a really big win for us."
Working with catcher Roberto Pérez for the first time since April 30 -- snapping a stretch of 17 consecutive starts paired with Gimenez -- Bauer pitched into the seventh inning, allowing no runs on four hits. His fastball command looked improved and the right-hander ended with four strikeouts against a pair of walks. Nine of the outs he recorded came via grounders, including a double play to escape a threat by the Nationals in the fifth.
What the win showed -- besides a step back in the right direction for Bauer, who had an 8.37 ERA in his previous five starts -- was that Cleveland trusts both of its catchers no matter who is on the hill. Last week, the Indians' rotation endured a seven-game stretch that included a 9.74 ERA in 32 1/3 innings, raising questions about what role the catchers -- splitting time in place of the injured Yan Gomes -- played in the struggles.
Indians starter Josh Tomlin said little fault falls on the shoulders of Perez or Gimenez.
"Those guys behind the plate have been prepared every outing, just as well as Yan does," Tomlin said. "And those guys have both played with Yan. 'Berto's played with Yan for a year or two now. And 'G' was here when Yan was here, too. So, Yan caught them up with what guys are doing, obviously. But, those guys prepare. They see the same scouting reports we see.
"Those catchers know what our strengths are. Our job is to execute the pitch. If we don't execute a pitch, that's not on them. If we don't like what they put down, it's our job to shake them off and throw a pitch with conviction. Basically, the bottom line is we just had a rough stretch."
Since that tough seven-game slide for the rotation, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and now Bauer have given Cleveland three quality outings in a row. Combined, that trio has spun a 1.27 ERA over the past three games, looking more like the Tribe rotation the team has come to know. Kluber, who worked with Gomes for 40 straight starts before the catcher injured his right shoulder on July 17, has a 1.55 ERA in four starts with Perez.
Through last week's struggles, Perez said he remained focused on the big picture.
"I think it was a rough week," Perez said. "But, I'm very confident about me calling a game. It's a long season, sometimes a pitching staff goes through those things. But I never doubt myself."
Bauer, even with his affinity for working with Gimenez, did not doubt Perez could call a solid game against the Nationals, either.
Washington's Max Scherzer flirted with history against the Indians, holding Cleveland to an 0-for-19 showing before Francisco Lindor's single in the seventh ignited a two-run rally for the Tribe. Along the way, Bauer and Perez stayed in step with Scherzer, sidestepping the potential damage of the handful of baserunners allowed in the righty's 6 1/3 innings on the mound.
"They both do a tremendous job back there," Bauer said of Perez and Gimenez. "It was seamless."
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 listen to his podcast.