Bauer outduels Yu in scoreless 10-K gem

September 10th, 2020

Once again, the Reds’ offense was fleeting on Wednesday, but they gave just enough. It was on Bauer to do all the heavy lifting, and he was indeed up to the task and then some.

Appearing to be on a mission with his usual intensity and an added zest of emotion on the mound, Bauer was the first Cincinnati pitcher to work into the eighth inning in 2020. He struck out 10 over 7 2/3 innings as the Reds got a much-needed 3-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“It’s just a big start for him, for us as a team, and it was fun to watch,” Reds manager David Bell said. “In every way, he just stepped up and came through big time for us. We needed a win, and he did it against a good team.”

Bauer didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and allowed only three overall without a walk to improve to 4-3 with a 1.74 ERA, bolstering his credentials in the National League Cy Young Award race.

As they try to fight their way into the playoff picture, the Reds are 19-24, 3 1/2 games behind the second-place Cardinals and 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs in the NL Central. They are now 2 1/2 games back in the race for the NL’s eighth and final spot in this year’s expanded postseason.

“Every game now moving forward, it’s imperative that we’re in it and that we have a chance to win it,” Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “To get almost eight innings out [Bauer] like that tonight was extremely impressive and something we needed as a team.”

The game was a sequel of sorts from when Bauer and Cubs ace Yu Darvish were matched up on Aug. 29 at Great American Ball Park. That time Darvish was the 3-0 winner.

Another leading NL Cy Young Award contender, Darvish wasn’t quite as dominant as he allowed a season-high three walks over six innings, but the Reds notched only two hits. He walked two back-to-back with one out in the first inning before Mike Moustakas slugged a 1-0 pitch with two outs for a three-run home run to center field.

That gave Bauer momentum even before he threw his first pitch, and everybody knew it.

“That makes him more relaxed, maybe,” Darvish said. “He's a great pitcher. Even on this planet, I believe he's the best pitcher. So I can't do that in the first inning.”

Friends who occasionally exchange tips and information about pitching, Bauer was extra pumped to work opposite of Darvish again. The Moustakas home run helped him dial it in even more.

“I know, runs are so critical, and when Moose comes out and puts us up 3-0, it's like, ‘All right, I can make this stand up.’ And that was the goal -- don't let them score three runs and win the game,” Bauer said. “You can get an early lead, that allows me to be more aggressive in the zone on the first pitch, knowing that you got a three-run cushion. So if you don't walk anybody, then even if you give up a solo homer on the first pitch, it's one run you still have the lead and a cushion. So that was really the turning point in the game really.”

Bauer wasn’t afraid to challenge Cubs hitters with stuff over the plate early in the count. But once he got ahead, the right-hander started working the edges and painted the strike zone. That was evident on four of his strikeouts -- all fastballs -- that hitters looked at for strike three.

“I throw a lot of offspeed stuff, especially in two-strike counts, because my offspeed stuff, my breaking balls, are elite, so I think they're looking,” Bauer said. “Watching back the first game, it seemed like they were looking for offspeed stuff, so it was kind of a free feeling knowing that like if I changed that, if I flipped that around a little bit, I didn't have to be perfect with [fastballs].”

Throughout the game, Bauer was demonstrative with emotion after some big moments. When he struck out Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs’ third straight K after the leadoff runner reached via hit-by-pitch in the fourth inning, Bauer let out a yell. Bauer and Javier Báez, who struck out twice, also appeared to exchange words.

At one point, Bauer was waving to the Cubs’ dugout. To end the seventh, he did a little shimmy as he walked off the mound.

“They actually chirped all night and yelled at me all night. Normally when they get behind, they shut up real quick,” Bauer said. “Even when I got taken out, they're yelling 'bye' at me. So I gave them a nice little wave and some other stuff, because it was impressive that you can chirp at someone after he shoved it ... for 7 2/3 innings. So props to them on that.”