CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer vs. Matthew Boyd. It was a matchup that was expected to draw a handful of Major League scouts, as the pair of hurlers have been attached to their fair share of rumors as the Trade Deadline quickly approaches.
Bauer is no stranger to hearing his name floated in hypothetical deals after spending the entire offseason listening to a plethora of rumors. If the Tribe’s rotation stays on schedule, the 28-year-old would make two more starts prior to July 31 after a solid showing in his much-anticipated outing against Boyd on Thursday.
Bauer allowed three runs on five hits -- including two homers -- and struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings to help lift the Indians to a 6-3 victory over the Tigers at Progressive Field. Cleveland swept the four-game series and won its fifth game in a row.
Although Bauer got off to a shaky start, giving up two homers -- a solo shot and a two-run blast -- in the first three innings, he settled in to retire the next nine batters. But that didn’t necessarily help level out his emotions.
“I don't think it was frustration. I think it was pure fury,” Bauer said. “I haven't been this mad in two months. So, yeah.”
What specifically was Bauer mad about?
“Everything,” he responded.
But Bauer's biggest annoyance was giving up two homers. It was the eighth time this season that he allowed multiple home runs in a game. Batters have taken him deep 22 times through 22 starts this year, after he allowed just nine in 28 games (27 starts) in 2018.
“I felt like I absolutely dominated tonight,” Bauer said. “I found three barrels, and two of them left the yard. Last time, I found four barrels, and three of them left the yard. It's ridiculous. Can't keep the ball in the frickin' yard, man. I don't know. That's what I'm mad about.”
But Jose Ramirez provided Bauer with the ultimate assist with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that snapped the 3-3 tie, giving Bauer a lead for his final inning. The home run extended Ramirez’s hitting streak to 10 games, and he's batting .367 with 12 RBIs in that span.
“I told ya so,” manager Terry Francona said about Ramirez heating up. “He’s a good player. And now he’s starting to get back into feeling good about himself. He got a fastball, and he took a great swing. He’s starting to feel it a little bit more and more. You can tell he’s enjoying himself, he’s not pressing. He’s able to be more of himself.”
“We've been playing good ball recently,” Bauer said. “Hopefully that continues. Obviously it's nice to win the game and my teammates having my back like that. Big props to those guys.”
Addressing the trade talk
Because of the high volume of trade rumors, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti took time to address the team prior to the upcoming Deadline to make sure no one was blindsided by any discussions, especially Bauer.
“Chris said [Bauer] was terrific,” Francona said. “Chris brought it up to me and I said, ‘I think it’s a great idea.’ Like you know, you don’t want to do something well-meaning and then mess it up. And he said he was glad he did.”
Bauer hit a rough patch in May. But despite his obvious anger after Thursday’s outing, the right-hander’s past eight starts have been enough to pique the interest of other teams, pitching to a 3.23 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 53 innings. But do the rumors ever cross his mind?
“Nope,” Bauer said, “Don't think about it.”
While Bauer’s numbers could cause the front office’s phones to ring a little more regularly, his stats have also been enough for the Indians to consider holding on to their hurler, as they have gained 7 1/2 games on the American League Central-leading Twins since June 4. They’ve won seven of Bauer’s past eight starts, and he recorded his 25th career double-digit strikeout game Thursday, moving him into fifth place in the franchise history books.
“We’ve got to know him pretty good,” Francona said, “and the one thing you know is on the day he pitches, you’re gonna get a guy that goes out there and is not gonna back down, is gonna compete, and there’s a pretty good chance the last pitch he throws that night is gonna be the best pitch of his night. There’s a lot to like about the way he pitches.”