Bauer dominates, says 'gimme dat' Cy

September 24th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- loves big games and being great during pressure moments. The intense, guttural yells the Reds starting pitcher let out to end the sixth inning of a 6-1 victory over the Brewers on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park were certainly worthy for the occasion.

Bauer further helped the Reds get closer to their first postseason berth since 2013 while further burnishing his candidacy for the National League Cy Young Award. And as far as Bauer is concerned, he is the front-runner.

"I don’t know how you can see it any other way," Bauer said. "Regardless if I win or not, because obviously that’s not my decision, but just having a year like this, it really validates all the work.

"I’ve been at this for 10 years, probably more like 15 years now actually, in this method of development, but hopefully it validates what I do, the scientific approach to baseball for the people that follow me."

Milwaukee opened the sixth with Jacob Nottingham reaching on an error and Avisaíl García's single. Bauer buckled down and struck out his next three batters -- Christian Yelich, Jedd Gyorko and Daniel Vogelbach -- when they all fanned on strike-three curveballs. With each K, a pumped-up Bauer yelled louder and longer.

"What makes him special is just the love of the competition. He loves being out there," Reds manager David Bell said. "There’s something about it that, when you can embrace that, more times than not, you’re going to get your best effort. He’s not afraid of any situation. He trusts himself. He trusts the work that he puts in to prepare himself."

The curveball -- thrown 16 times out of his 104 pitches, netted five of Bauer's strikeouts, and Milwaukee was unable to put a single ball in play against it, according to Statcast.

"That’s always been my go-to pitch," Bauer said. "When I get in a big situation, I go to my curveball. Nowadays, I have just as much trust in my slider and my fastball, but that’s kind of vintage Trevor Bauer there back to my college days where anytime I got into a jam, I just threw nothing but curveballs until I just punched everybody out."

Pitching on three days' rest for the first time in 2020 as Cincinnati battles to secure a postseason spot, Bauer assumed the NL lead with a 1.73 ERA, 100 strikeouts and a 0.79 WHIP. He is ahead of fellow NL Cy Young contenders Jacob deGrom, Yu Darvish and Corbin Burnes with 73 innings pitched.

"Big game for me personally, but more importantly for the team. It’s a playoff series. Every series right now for us is a playoff series," said Bauer, who threw eight innings and allowed one run and four hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts.

If the Reds need Bauer to get into the playoffs, it's lined up for him to pitch again on Sunday vs. the Twins in the regular season finale -- also on three days' rest. Tyler Mahle is set to start on Friday, and it's possible that Luis Castillo could return for Saturday.

"Trevor has been good all year," Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. "But he’s also demanded of us a higher level of competition, which is infectious. This is the most important game of the year so far, of course. We have so many good options out of the starting rotation, but I’m glad it fell on his hands today, for sure."

Bauer didn't have to carry the team on his back, and he worked with a lead most of the night.

Votto, who was 0-for-31 vs. Milwaukee pitchers dating back to last season, slugged a two-run home run to left-center field off Adrian Houser in the bottom of the first inning. Jesse Winker lined a solo homer to right field against Houser in the fourth inning and Eugenio Suárez delivered the biggest blow with a three-run homer to left field against Alex Claudio in the fifth.

Cincinnati (29-28) won two of three games from the Brewers and secured the tiebreaker advantage by winning the season series, 6-4. After dropping nine consecutive series, the Reds have won four in a row while also winning nine of their past 11 games.

Bauer faced the minimum through four innings. He gave up a leadoff single by García to open the game but the baserunner was erased when catcher Tucker Barnhart caught him stealing.

"It looked like Trev hadn’t settled in just for the first couple of hitters," Bell said. "As soon as that happened, it may have been a bigger play than we realized getting that first out there.”

In the fifth, Daniel Vogelbach reached on a four-pitch walk and scored on Orlando Arcia's RBI double to left-center field. That represented the lone run Bauer allowed.

There was some concern when Bauer grabbed the back of his right leg with a hamstring cramp after a final warmup pitch in the seventh inning. After he was evaluated, the right-hander continued on the way to retiring nine of his final 10 batters.