Bauer in rhythm with 11 punchouts in tight loss

August 19th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- New Reds pitcher is still adjusting back to the National League way of things after seven seasons in Cleveland. On Monday vs. the Padres, both Bauer and Cincinnati manager David Bell would have loved to see the right-hander go the distance.

Alas, Bell needed offense and summoned for a pinch-hitter to replace Bauer in the bottom of the seventh. But the best takeaway for Bauer was that he rebounded nicely from one of the worst starts of his career, racking up 11 strikeouts over seven innings. He was throwing strikes and held his own vs. personal nemesis Manny Machado.

Still, the result of the outing was a 3-2 Reds loss to the Padres at Great American Ball Park.

“It was around the middle of the game, it’s like, ‘Wow, he’s really finding it right here.’ He found a good rhythm,” Bell said. “One of these games we’ll have a lead and we’ll get to see him finish one of these things and throw 130 pitches. We know he’s capable of it, but we had to hit for him again tonight. You saw him get locked in, so at least he had the opportunity to find that. Hopefully, he can take that into his next start.”

Bauer, who was making his fourth start for Cincinnati since he was acquired in a three-team trade from the Indians for Yasiel Puig, allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk. In his previous start vs. the Nationals on Wednesday, Bauer gave up a career-high nine earned runs over 4 1/3 innings in a 17-7 loss.

“I think I go eight [innings] in the American League for sure, or nine depending on the score,” said Bauer, who began his career with the NL’s D-backs in 2012. “I was almost done after the sixth -- if my position came up, I was going to be done. It’s tough to get used to for someone who likes pitching and going deep in games.”

During the offseason, Bauer was thrilled that Machado signed a 10-year contract with San Diego so the right-hander wouldn’t have to face him any more in the American League. Entering the game, Machado was batting .622 with a 2.635 OPS and four home runs lifetime vs. Bauer.

Bad luck found Bauer in the opening inning when Greg Garcia led off with a single that skipped off of first base before Josh Naylor walked. Bauer thought his first full-count pitch to Naylor was strike three. Naylor fouled it off and then walked to bring up Machado.

“All of a sudden, it’s two guys on and nobody out instead of no one on and two outs, and the ‘Holy Ghost’ is up,” Bauer said of Machado.

Machado blistered an RBI single that had an exit velocity of 111.7 mph to score Garcia. But Bauer escaped further trouble and retired 10 of the next 11 batters, with the only hit being a soft squib off the bat of Wil Myers for an infield single.

“To get through that with only one run was good. It’s a tough way to start the game. The second inning was tough, too. I was [thinking], ‘Is it really going to go that way again?’” Bauer said.

In the fourth inning with two outs, Francisco Mejia hit a first-pitch cutter to right field for a solo homer that made it a 2-1 game. A defensive miscue cost Bauer a run in the fifth. Following a two-out single by Garcia, Naylor lofted a routine fly ball to the warning track in left field. Jose Peraza struggled with his route to the ball before it bounced off of his glove for a two-base error and a run.

Watching from the mound, Bauer put his hands on his knees and shook his head in frustration, but he rallied to retire his final seven batters.

Of the 102 pitches Bauer threw, 67 were strikes as he led with his fastball (50 times), which averaged 94.4 mph. It garnered 33 strikes out of 50 attempts, according to Statcast. His superb breaking pitches were what put hitters away, as 10 of his strikeouts came via a curveball, slider or cutter.

“My curveball and slider were really good. My cutter was pretty good, too,” Bauer said. “I missed one of them and the ball left the yard. If they moved the fences five feet further, it would’ve curved foul. It caught the foul pole and he hit it pretty well. Other than that, I thought my breaking stuff was really good. My fastball was good, too, but my breaking stuff will always be my favorite.”

Overall in 28 starts, Bauer is 10-10 with a 4.06 ERA, but he’s 1-2 with a 5.87 ERA since joining the Reds. He is under club control for Cincinnati in 2020, which means he will form a tough top three of its rotation with Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo next season.

“I’m throwing the ball well in my last three [starts] overall,” Bauer said. “Obviously, the numbers don’t really support that, but as far as execution goes and the break on my pitches, command and stuff like that, I think I’m doing pretty well.”