DETROIT -- There was a moment Wednesday when it looked like the Tigers might break through against Trevor Bauer, and the Indians might need to get their laboring bullpen loose. Bauer took matters into his own hands and made sure the threat was fleeting.With two runners aboard in the sixth,
DETROIT -- There was a moment Wednesday when it looked like the Tigers might break through against Trevor Bauer, and the Indians might need to get their laboring bullpen loose. Bauer took matters into his own hands and made sure the threat was fleeting.
With two runners aboard in the sixth, Bauer fired a backdoor two-seamer to Pete Kozma, who watched the pitch pop into catcher Roberto Perez's glove over the outside corner for an inning-ending strikeout. Bauer continued to cruise from there, leading Cleveland to a 6-0 victory in the finale of the three-game set at Comerica Park.
"We certainly needed that," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We got to stay away from everybody else and let them take a deep breath and kind of get us back in order. It was good."
In the previous two games, the Indians' bullpen relinquished late runs -- three in the eighth on Monday and five in the seventh on Tuesday -- to help Detroit to a pair of wins. On Wednesday, Bauer logged eight shutout innings, piled up 10 strikeouts, issued no walks and scattered four hits to help avoid another mishap.
Even with 108 pitches in the books, Bauer was willing and able to take the mound for the ninth, but Francona wanted to get Cody Allen some work. The closer allowed a leadoff single to Dixon Machado, but then struck out three straight to put the finishing touch on Cleveland's win.
"I want to throw a complete game every time out," said Bauer, who improved to 3-3 with a 2.59 ERA on the season. "Unfortunately, I end up running against a traditional model of pitch counts more times than not."
Bauer received ample support from the Indians' lineup, which came into the afternoon averaging 6.4 runs across the previous 20 games. That type of output continued against Tigers lefty Ryan Carpenter, who struggled to miss Cleveland's bats. The Tribe made contact on 37 of 41 swings against Carpenter, who recorded no strikeouts and surrendered six runs (five earned) in his five frames.
The Indians struck for two runs in the first, connected for three consecutive RBI hits in the fourth and enjoyed a leadoff home run from Michael Brantley in the fifth inning. That was more than enough for Bauer, who did his best to remove Cleveland's struggling bullpen from the equation with an efficient outing.
It was precisely the kind of win the Indians needed in what has been a trying stretch for the American League Central leaders.
"There have definitely been some tough ones," Allen said. "But for the most part, besides the bullpen, our team is playing really, really good baseball. Our starting rotation is giving us some serious length. They're throwing the ball great. The offense is putting up runs throughout different parts of the game. We're really close to being the caliber of club we need to be going forward."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Kipnis comes through: Heading into Wednesday's game, Jason Kipnis had posted a 2-for-33 showing in his previous nine contests, leading to Francona dropping the second baseman to eighth in the order against the Tigers. In the fourth, following an RBI single by Erik Gonzalez, Kipnis pulled a pitch from Carpenter into the right-field corner for a run-scoring double to put the Indians ahead, 4-0. It marked Kipnis' first extra-base hit since May 2.
"He doesn't have the numbers he'd like to have right now," Allen said. "But he's handling it really, really well. He's showing up to the ballpark. He still has great energy. He's a leader in this clubhouse. Guys feed off him. He's doing an unbelievable job for us. And he's putting up some really good at-bats.
"That's probably the most frustrating part. He's not getting rewarded for putting up good at-bats. He's barreling up some baseballs, but they're just not falling. He's going to stick with it, and it's going to turn around for him."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the fourth inning, Victor Reyes chopped a pitch from Bauer back up the middle, where it nicked one of Bauer's spikes as it bounced over the top of the mound. Shortstop Francisco Lindor sprinted in, plucked the ball from the ground with his bare hand in front of second base and made a quick throw to first baseman Yonder Alonso to nab Reyes by half a step.
"That was a tough one," Kipnis said. "It's not only a race against the hitter, it's a race to get that ball before it gets to the bag. Once it hits that bag, the play is dead. He made an athletic play. He knew the type of play to make the whole way. You don't want to take it for granted how many times you've seen him make plays like that, but it was an awesome play there."
The front four in the Indians' rotation (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Bauer) have combined to go 17-7 with a 2.81 ERA this season. In 236 2/3 combined innings, the quartet has 229 strikeouts against 58 walks.
HE SAID IT
"I've always wanted the team to get off to a better start than myself. I know what my numbers are, and they're not as good as I want them to be and everybody wants them to be. But I'm going to stay at it, and regardless of everybody else's opinions on what I should be doing or where I should be playing, I think I'm going to just stay the course. I think I'll be fine." -- Kipnis
Following a scheduled off-day for the Indians on Thursday, the Tribe heads to Houston for a three-game series against the reigning World Series champions. In an 8:10 p.m. ET tilt on Friday, right-hander Mike Clevinger (3-0, 2.70 ERA) will take the mound for Cleveland.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.