CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer was confident he'd come back even better in 2019 than he proved to be in his breakout 2018 season. Through his first two starts, he’s certainly kept his word.
Bauer tossed seven hitless innings in the Indians’ 4-1 victory against the Blue Jays on Thursday evening at Progressive Field. The Indians came close to tossing the 13th combined no-hitter (300th overall) in Major League history, but it was broken up in the top of the ninth when Brad Hand allowed a leadoff single to Freddy Galvis. Bauer permitted six walks, hit one batter and struck out eight on the night.
This start, combined with his seven-inning, one-hit season debut on Saturday, makes Bauer the first pitcher in Major League history to go five-plus innings in back-to-back starts to begin a season and give up only one total hit. In those two outings, the 28-year-old fanned 17 batters through 14 total innings, lowering his ERA to 0.64. The only other Indians pitchers in the last 100 years to pitch at least seven frames, strike out eight-plus batters and allow one or fewer hits multiple times at any point in a single season were Bob Feller (four times), Sam McDowell, Dennis Eckersley and Carlos Carrasco.
"He's got so many weapons to go to," Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. "Now that he added that changeup over the winter, it helped him a lot. Because now lefty or righty … you don't know what you're gonna get. You're gonna get a slider, curveball in the dirt, changeup, you don't know, cutter. But, man, I know he's been great these two first games of the season and hopefully he keeps going the rest of the way."
The decision to pull Bauer
When Bauer walked off the mound after striking out Brandon Drury to end the seventh, his pitch count had reached 117 and the righty was told he wouldn't come back to try to finish off his first no-hitter. The most pitches he's ever thrown in a game was 147 against Jason Kipnis and the Arizona State Sun Devils in college.
"I figured.  pitches is a lot for any time of the year, obviously," Bauer said. "I just got myself in trouble, a lot of deep counts, a lot of free passes. But yeah, it was the right decision."
"I didn't want to take him out," manager Terry Francona said. "...I told him I hate it. He goes, 'I hate it too, but I know it's the right thing.' I care too much about him and this organization to hurt somebody. I would have loved to have seen it because I don't doubt that he would have kept pitching and probably not given up a hit the way he was throwing. I just have an obligation to do the right thing even when it's not the funnest thing to do."
Bauer hurt his pitch count in a 31-pitch third inning. He walked Galvis, hit Alen Hanson and then walked Drury to load the bases with no outs. But he settled in to strike out Socrates Brito and Randal Grichuk and got Rowdy Tellez to line out to center. Eight of the 14 pitches he threw after the bases were loaded were curveballs.
"[I] was just really frustrated with myself," Bauer said. "And then just basically went to my best weapon, my curveball, and was able to get out of it, thankfully. That's a situation that changes the game one way or another. I was happy to be able to get out of that and kick in the competitiveness a little bit and take it to the next notch."
"Bauer is a good pitcher," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "He is one of the best pitchers in baseball. When he got into trouble, he went to his breaking pitches and we couldn't hit them."
"Why throw another pitch if they just can't make adjustments?" Perez said. "We stuck to it, and it worked out.”
3 outs away
Bauer watched from the dugout as Jon Edwards came out to work the eighth and allowed two baserunners on a walk and hit-by-pitch. Hand was then called on to record the last out of the eighth and the Indians were three outs away from completing the no-hitter.
"I asked [bench coach Brad Mills], 'If he gets them 1-2-3, do we celebrate? Do we not?'" Francona said. "I wasn't even sure how to act. There were so many walks and hit batsmen and bases loaded. I just wanted us to win."
The Indians were able to secure the win, but could not accomplish the no-hit feat after Hand gave up a leadoff single in the ninth.
"I mean, yeah, it's cool to get a combined no-hitter, but at the end of the game you want to get the win," Hand said. "That's the most important thing."
The Indians have now gone 6,010 straight games without a no-hitter, which is the second-longest streak in American League history (Detroit went 6,108 games without a no-hitter from 1912-52).
"To be honest, I don't really care about a no-hitter or not," Bauer said. "I care about putting up zeroes for the team and winning. I care about coming out to the ballpark, seeing the fans, seeing the people of Cleveland. I care about my teammates and trying to win a World Series. So, if I throw a no-hitter, that's great. If not, that's great too, as long as we win the game."