Bauer and Chisenhall Come of Age, Leading Tribe Past Rox; Indians 7, Rockies 6
Mike B. | On 31, May 2014
Every diamond needs a little polishing.
Lonnie Chisenhall and Trevor Bauer have been expected to emerge as leaders of the Tribe for some time now, but have struggled in opportunities. Neither struggled Saturday afternoon as they helped lead the Indians to a 7-6 win over the Colorado Rockies at Progressive Field. Chisenhall, who has bounced from Triple-A and the big leagues since June 2011, went 2-for-3 with a home run and three driven in on the afternoon.
Bauer, the big name in a three-team trade in December 2012, has been expected to become a front-of-the-rotation pitcher for Cleveland. He had his third quality start in four outings this year and outdueled lefty, Franklin Morales. Bauer’s command and control continue to thrive at the big league level in 2014, while Chisenhall’s offense has come alive after three seasons of sputter.
Cleveland gave Bauer some early offense in the bottom of the second inning. Yan Gomes and David Murphy started the frame with back-to-back singles to right field. Murphy moved to second base on a passed ball before Jesus Aguilar struck out, but Chisenhall singled to right field, giving the Indians an early 1-0 lead.
But the crushing blow of the inning came a hitter after Chisenhall when Mike Aviles hit a three-run home run to the left field porch. Aviles’ third home run of the season staked the Indians to a 4-0 lead after two innings.
Colorado answered right back in the top of the third inning, but Bauer was able to minimize the damage. With one out, Wilin Rosario walked before D.J. LeMahieu doubled to right field. Murphy played the ball off the wall well and had a chance to throw out LeMahieu at second base, but the ball bounced off his back and caromed into short left field. Murphy’s first error of the season allowed Rosario to race home and cut the lead to 4-1. It snapped a streak of 127 games without an error for Murphy.
The Rockies looked to be on the cusp of a big inning of their own when Charlie Blackmon followed with a single to center field to score LeMahieu and cut the Tribe’s lead to 4-2. Michael Cuddyer singled and he and Blackmon completed a double steal to each move into scoring position. With just one out and Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki headed to the plate, the Rockies could have easily tied the game. However, Bauer buckled down and struck out each—including freezing Tulowitzki on a sharp curveball to end the inning.
Bauer settled in to the game after the third inning. The back-to-back strikeouts of Gonzalez and Tulowitzki were the start of a streak where he set down 11 of 12 batters he faced. For the second straight game, Cleveland starting pitchers used the strike out to their advantage to set down Colorado hitters. Bauer’s afternoon was complete after six innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and a walk, while striking out eight. Bauer finished strong, throwing 100 pitches, 25 of the last 29 for strikes.
Morales settled down, also, after his four-run, second inning—allowing just a pair of hits and a walk after the first two frames until the sixth inning. In the sixth inning, Cleveland chased Morales from the game. With one out, Aguilar walked before Chisenhall hit a two-run, home run down the right field line to give the Indians a 6-2 lead. Chisenhall’s third home run of the season ended the left-hander Morales’ day. Once believed to be a platoon player, only suited for right-handed pitchers, Chisenhall is now 9-for-16 against southpaws this season.
Morales departed after five and one-third innings, allowing six runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out three. The home runs by Aviles and Chisenhall were his kryptonite on the afternoon. Nick Masset came on in relief for Colorado, and despite allowing a pair of infield singles, ended the inning without Cleveland extending their lead further.
Then, things took a turn for the Tribe.
The normally reliable Scott Atchison came on in relief of Bauer in the top of the seventh, but had little success. Corey Dickerson homered to right field for his sixth home run of the season, cutting the Tribe’s lead to 6-3. After Rosario and LeMahieu each singled, Atchison’s day was done. LeMahieu’s single could have been fielded—and even potentially a double play ball to end the inning—but Aviles lost the ball in the afternoon shadows and broke the wrong way on the grounder.
The grounder squirted through the infield to put a pair on and just one out, forcing Indians manager Terry Francona to go to his bullpen for left-hander Josh Outman. Outman threw only one pitch—a three-run homer to right field off the bat of Charlie Blackmon—tying the game and erasing the potential win for Bauer. Bryan Shaw finished the inning for Cleveland after Outman exited.
Adam Ottavino came on and pitched a flawless seventh inning for Colorado and Shaw (2-1) stayed in to do the same in the top of the eighth for Cleveland. Left-hander Rex Brothers (2-3) came on for Colorado in the bottom of the eighth, but the Indians would take their final lead. Jason Kipnis pinch-hit and drew a walk to start the frame and advanced to second base on Chisenhall’s sacrifice bunt. Down in the count 1-2, Aviles redeemed himself, lining a single to right field. Kipnis scored and the Indians re-took the lead, 7-6. Aviles drove in four runs in the game.
Cody Allen worked around a leadoff walk to earn his third save of the season and give the Indians the win. Allen got DeMahieu to ground into a double play to end the game. It was the first time DeMahieu was retired all afternoon.
Bauer—just 23-years old—takes a tough luck, no-decision. The greater victory could be in his development and continued emergence at the big league level. After struggling in 2013, Bauer has been sharp in three of four starts this season. Chisenhall—still just 25-years old—is now hitting .369 on the season, including a .424 on-base percentage. While Carlos Santana rests on the disabled list, Chisenhall is reaping the benefits of playing every day.
The Indians will try to earn a series sweep of the Rockies on Sunday afternoon. Josh Tomlin (3-2, 3.04) will take the mound for the Indians. Tomlin has been solid since his recall from Triple-A in early May. Colorado will counter with Jhoulys Chacin (0-4, 5.20).
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images