Yet after a 3-2 loss to Detroit on Sunday to drop the series, the Reds are 1-2 when they could easily be off to a 3-0 start. The rotation collectively owns a 1.47 ERA, and the two losses came at the hands of the bullpen. Cincinnati’s relievers have surrendered seven runs and four homers in the past two days -- with Michael Lorenzen giving up two of the long balls. C.J. Cron's two-run homer off reliever Lorenzen in the top of the ninth inning Sunday snapped a 1-1 tie.
"It sucks," Bauer said. "Had a real chance to win three. We hold ourselves to the standard that we should’ve won those games. But it is what it is at this point. So come out tomorrow and get back in the win column, that’s all we can do.”
When Bauer got Tigers hitter JaCoby Jones to look at strike three on a 98-mph fastball to end the fifth inning on Sunday, the Reds' starting pitcher helped make franchise history with his 10th strikeout of the game.
Since the mound was placed at 60 feet and six inches in 1893, Cincinnati has never started a season with its pitchers recording 10 or more strikeouts over their first three games.
"I tend to have that in big moments, the adrenaline kicks in and I get hypercompetitive," Bauer said. "I hate giving up runs, so my stuff generally ticks up and I become more competitive in those moments. I was happy to see that it was still there. Not that I ever thought it would go away, but you never know, it’s a new season."
Bauer struck out two more batters in the sixth inning and another in the seventh to finish off his 105-pitch, 13-strikeout outing with one earned run, two hits and one walk over 6 1/3 innings. Overall, the staff struck out 16 batters to lead the Major Leagues with 46 strikeouts, six more than second-place Cleveland.
On Saturday, Cincinnati’s pitchers recorded 17 K's vs. Detroit in a 6-4 loss, with Castillo providing 11. Friday’s 7-1 Opening Day victory was a 13-strikeout day for the staff, including nine from Gray.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Reds pitchers began a season with at least 10 strikeouts in each of the first two games just four times -- 1990, 2013, ‘16 and ‘20. With a total of 33 strikeouts through its first three games this year, Cincinnati's starters are tied with the 2013 Rangers rotation for the most in MLB history.
"I think that's probably going to be the best three pitchers we face in succession all year long," Cron said of the Reds’ rotation.
Bauer's key was establishing his four-seam fastball. According to Statcast, the right-hander threw it 52 times for 34 strikes. The only time he was burned on it was when Niko Goodrum hit a two-out solo homer to right-center field in the third inning.
That enabled Bauer to baffle hitters with the offspeed portion of his repertoire, which accounted for the other seven K's -- including three from his curveball.
"I think [the fastball] really set the tone for him and set him up to go really deep in the game," Reds manager David Bell said. "And he probably had more in the tank, but can’t do much better than that the first time out. Going well over 100 pitches and getting into the seventh inning, that exceeded all of our expectations today, even for Trevor."
After Bauer struck out Cron with a 94 mph fastball to open the seventh inning, Bell emerged from the dugout. Bauer then mimicked a controversial 2019 moment when he pretended to throw the ball into center field as Terry Francona pulled him from what would be his final start for Cleveland.
"Just having fun, trying to keep the game light and entertaining for the fans," Bauer said. "I get worn out about it a lot. Everyone on Twitter is like, ‘Oh, go throw the ball over center field like a baby,’ or ‘Have another temper tantrum,' whatever the case is. So, I figured I’d give the trolls something to chew on."