CLEVELAND -- A bloody finger has largely defined Trevor Bauer's postseason to this point, offering seemingly endless fodder for everyone other than Bauer, who is ready to flip the script when he returns to the mound tonight for a World Series start against the Cubs in Game 2 opposite Jake Arrieta.
Indians ace Corey Kluber set the bar rather high in Game 1 on Tuesday, twirling six-plus scoreless innings during a 6-0 victory to put a critical series lead in Bauer's pocket.
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"We just got to take care of our home," Indians catcher Roberto Pérez said. "We got the first win out of the way, but we got to come back tomorrow with the same mentality. They have a good ballclub over there, good hitters, but we just got to play the baseball that we've been doing the whole year."
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That starts with Bauer, and the right-hander, who could not make it out of the first inning of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Blue Jays on Oct. 17 as blood dripped profusely from his drone-damaged pinkie finger, assured Tuesday, "There's no pain, no blood."
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This, after he threw a 20-pitch simulated game Monday evening.
"Threw it with max intent, just like in a game, as close to game intensity as I could possibly get to," Bauer said. "I was able to execute all my pitches to a high level, and I'm really encouraged by it. I feel like I'm on regular preparation for my start tomorrow."
His manager would like to believe the same, and Terry Francona was quite convincing in casting his vote of confidence in Bauer, who suffered the injury in a freak accident while repairing one of his many personal drones nearly two weeks ago.
"I was confident last week, and I said that I didn't think the finger was going to get in the way, and I'm going to say the same thing again this week," Francona said. "And if it doesn't work, I'm going to make the doctor come up here and talk to you guys.
"They've learned a few things over the week that will help. I don't think that finger's going to be the reason he wins or loses."
Bauer has dramatically increased his usage of his curveball this year, generating exceptional results, and that doesn't expect to change against a club that has largely struggled to mash it.
The Cubs had the lowest average exit velocity against curveballs during the regular season at 84.3 mph, per Statcast™, and they were subsequently shut out in consecutive National League Championship Series contests against the Dodgers in games started by curveball specialists Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw.
Bauer, it seems, could soon be considered one, should he continue getting the kind of spin and drop that has made his curveball so confounding of late. According to Brooks Baseball, he threw the pitch 19.64 percent of the time this season, way up from his career median, which sits at 14.56.
Of course, none of this will matter Wednesday if Bauer, who helped lead Cleveland to a win in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against Boston after allowing three runs in 4 2/3 innings, brings more blood than bite.
Slotting him in Game 2 of the World Series -- rather than Game 3, tentatively reserved for right-hander Josh Tomlin -- at least allows the Indians to keep a bat out of Bauer's hand when the series shifts to Chicago on Friday.
"We're going there and we're going to lose our DH," Francona said. "You can just say, 'Well OK, just let him stand there.' It's hard to do. It's hard to give a really good team a couple outs right off the bat. I was more worried about that than probably the pitching.
"I think with a week under his belt, from what all the doctors said, we wouldn't have pitched him tomorrow if they didn't feel comfortable with it."