Bauer betrayed by best pitch in fateful ninth
CLEVELAND -- Three times.
Indians starter Trevor Bauer had gone to his curveball three times in a 3-2 count this season. The hook had been working for the righty in Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the Royals. He'd thrown it a season-high 28 times. It had gotten him five of his six strikeouts. It had only been put in play twice, both for outs.
The idea made sense. A red-hot Eric Hosmer was at the plate. The bases were empty with two out. Bauer wanted to put a curveball in the dirt. If he executes the pitch and Hosmer swings, Bauer's got his seventh strikeout of the night and the Indians head into the bottom of the inning with the score still tied at 1. Even if he executes and Hosmer lays off, Bauer wouldn't have minded the walk.
Bauer made a good pitch, but it wasn't in the dirt. It caught the very bottom sliver of the strike zone, and Hosmer swung, but he didn't miss.
The 78-mph offering left the bat at 108 mph, according to Statcast™, and exited the playing field in a hurry. A shell-shocked Bauer stood on the mound, staring towards the right-field seats where the ball landed in disbelief.
"I think the last time I gave up a home run on a curveball was last year," Bauer said.
Bauer remembers correctly. He's given up just two homers on a curveball in his career, both in 2014. The pitch that had carried him into the ninth inning betrayed him at the worst possible moment.
"I had thrown quite a few good ones," Bauer said. "I think I hung one early in the game, but I threw it for a strike when I wanted to and bounced them when I wanted to. So it was a pitch I had confidence in at that point."
The homer spoiled an otherwise excellent outing by Bauer, coming on the heels of a pair of duds. He threw the first complete game of his career, allowing two earned runs on five hits and a walk, while striking out six.
"That was one of the better games we've seen from him," Francona said. "Talk about a change of emotion in one pitch."
The pitch prior to Hosmer's blast, Indians catcher Roberto Perez had gunned down speedster Lorenzo Cain at second base for the second out of the inning. Bauer was one out, one pitch away from handing it over to his offense.
"That's baseball, man," Bauer said.