It was the picture the Indians organization painted in Dec. 2012 when they acquired Trevor Bauer: Amazing talent, still a little rough around the edges, but by mid-season he could be a big difference maker.
While the Indians thought that would be the case in 2013, maybe they just missed it by 12 months.
Just 23 years old, Bauer seems matured and humbled since his acquisition and very much a refined, controlled pitcher. Bauer gave the Indians six strong innings against the best offense in the American League Tuesday night and out-pitched the best pitcher in the last decade as the still-young hurler helped beat the Detroit Tigers, 6-2. The Indians used solid defense and a big inning to help take down Justin Verlander and the Motor City Kitties. The Indians, struggling to get on track in 2014, looked very much the part of their 2013 formula for victory.
Maybe Bauer is just late to the party.
Bauer may have faced some early jitters against the division-leading Tigers. For the first time in Bauer’s Indians’ career he has the chance to remain in the rotation if he performs well. However, Torii Hunter did not allow him to get off to a great start in the first inning. Hunter hit his sixth home run of the season, staking Detroit to a 1-0 lead.
Cleveland answered right back in the bottom of the first with a tally of their own. Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley each singled with one out to set the stage for Lonnie Chisenhall. Chisenhall answered with the Tribe’s third straight single to plate a run and even the score at one after an inning of play.
But in the second inning, the Tribe came alive, looking reminiscent of the offense from a season ago. After Carlos Santana tried to stretch an infield single into a double and was thrown out, Nick Swisher doubled to right field and Yan Gomes walked to put a pair on with one out. Mike Aviles doubled into the left center field alley to bring both runners home and make it 3-1, Tribe.
Michael Bourn followed with a double off the right field wall to bring home Aviles and make it 4-1, Cleveland. Bourn then stole third base uncontested and trotted home on Cabrera’s second hit of the game. Cleveland’s gap power and hustle gave them a quick 5-1 lead against Verlander and the Tigers.
Bauer settled in to the game and began attacking hitters. After the Hunter home run in the first, Bauer faced the minimum for the next two innings allowing just a hit. In the fourth inning Miguel Cabrera started the inning with a leadoff double, but Bauer got Victor Martinez to ground out, Austin Jackson to strike out and Nick Castellanos to fly out to center field. Bauer, the pitcher who often made jams worse in previous starts, worked around a potential big inning.
Detroit scratched a run closer in the top of the fifth, but it could have been worse if not for Bauer and some good defense behind him. Alex Avila led off the inning with a towering homer that bounced off the railing above the wall in center field. Avila’s third homer of the year cut the Cleveland’s lead to 5-2.
The Tigers could have scored more, but Bauer and Brantley minimized the damage. Danny Worth followed Avila’s blast with a single. Bauer struck out Rajai Davis before Ian Kinsler singled off the left field wall. Brantley turned and threw him out at second base for the second out of the inning and squelching a potential two-on, one-out situation. Bauer then got Hunter to ground out to shortstop to end the inning. Several times in the frame Bauer reached 100 m.p.h. on the Progressive Field radar gun.
Bauer again worked his way out of a jam in the sixth inning, due to his own hustle and instant replay. After recording the first out of the inning, Bauer walked Martinez and Jackson to set up a potential big inning. With the bullpen stirring, Bauer got Castellanos to ground into a 3-6-1 double play. Bauer got to the first base bag and made the catch just a fraction of a second before Castellanos’ foot hit first base. Originally called safe, Indians manager Terry Francona challenged the play and it was overturned, ending the inning.
Bauer (1-1) allowed a leadoff single to Avila in the seventh inning and his evening was complete. The young, right-hander pitched six innings, allowing two runs—both on solo home runs—on seven hits, three walks and five strike outs. It was Bauer’s most complete start as a big leaguer. Bryan Shaw finished the seventh inning, getting a fly out to center field and a line-out-double-play to first base.
Verlander (5-3) rebounded from his rocky first to innings to survive six innings, allowing five runs on 11 hits, three walks and two strikeouts on 116 pitches. The 11 hits earned by Cleveland is the most they’ve ever registered against the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Evan Reed took over for the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh inning and David Murphy welcomed him to the game with a solo home run to right field. Murphy’s fourth homer of the season extended Cleveland’s lead to 6-2. He was the last Indians’ starter to register a hit in the contest.
Shaw stayed on to work the eighth inning, working a clean stanza, capped with striking out Miguel Cabrera to end it. The whiff brought a resounding cheer from the 13,924 Tribe fans in attendance.
Cody Allen rebounded from a blown save on Monday to record the final three outs of the game. While it wasn’t a save situation, Allen worked a three-up, three-down inning to rebuild that confidence.
Cleveland will go for the three-game sweep of Detroit on Wednesday afternoon. Zach McAllister (3-4, 5.36) will toe the rubber for the matinee looking to find the command he had in April and wipe away a tough first half of May. He’ll be opposed by reigning Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer (6-1, 1.83). Game time is slated for 12:05 p.m. from Progressive Field.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images