Trevor Bauer brought a no-hitter into the sixth, Jay Bruce was involved in producing all four Cleveland runs, and the familiar bullpen tandem of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen closed out Game 1 in usual fashion as the Indians blanked the New York Yankees with their 20th shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory on Thursday night in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
All questions about Bauer starting the opener of the playoffs for the Indians were silenced as his excellent numbers against the Yankees in 2017 continued in his second ALDS Game 1 start in as many seasons for the Tribe. He contained a strong Yankees lineup all game long and got a big effort from one of the newest members of the ball club.
New York started Sonny Gray, a trade deadline acquisition this season who had three starts under his belt against Cleveland with a wide array of results. He would evade trouble in the first after the Indians got a runner to third on a Francisco Lindor walk, a Jason Kipnis fielder’s choice force of Lindor, a groundout by Jose Ramirez that moved Kipnis to second, and a wild pitch that put the first potential run 90 feet from home plate. Edwin Encarnacion grounded out to short to end the threat.
The second inning would have different results as the Tribe took an early 1-0 lead. Bruce started his big night at the plate with a double to left. He moved to third on a single by Carlos Santana. Lonnie Chisenhall was hit by Gray’s 1-1 pitch to load the bases for Roberto Perez, who worked the count full before grounding sharply to short. New York turned a 6-4-3 double play to retire Chisenhall and Perez, but Bruce scored to put the Tribe on top. Giovanny Urshela flied to right to strand a second runner at third in as many innings, helping Gray escape further harm.
Bauer was dominant early. He retired the side in order in the first, striking out big weapons Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez to end the inning. He briefly lost the strike zone with two down in the second, walking Greg Bird on four straight pitches, before striking out Todd Frazier to end the inning. He worked quickly through the third, pitching with the lead for the first time on the night, adding his fourth strikeout of the game in the middle of the inning one batter after Kipnis made an impressive diving catch racing towards left field to rob the Yankees of their first hit.
Judge would become the second man to reach base safely for the Yankees leading off the fourth as he struck out for the second straight at bat, but was able to motor to first on a wild pitch by Bauer. It would not matter, as Sanchez grounded the very next pitch to third where Urshela worked the ball around the infield for a double play. Didi Gregorius struck out looking to close the inning.
Encarnacion started the home half of the fourth for the Tribe and drew a five-pitch walk, bringing up Bruce. He got around on a fastball and pulled it to right for a towering two-run blast, extending the Indians’ lead to 3-0. Gray would walk Santana and Perez around a Chisenhall pop out and would get the hook from manager Joe Girardi. Former Indians draft pick Adam Warren gave up a single to center to Urshela to load the bases, but Cleveland could not cash in as Lindor struck out quickly and Kipnis flied to center.
It was another 1-2-3 inning for Bauer in the fifth before his teammates gave him one more run of insurance. Ramirez singled to lead off the inning and would move up to second on a wild pitch by Warren. Encarnacion fouled out to left and Girardi went back to his bullpen for starter Jaime Garcia. A wild pitch moved Ramirez to third, which would prove costly as Bruce lofted a fly ball to center deep enough to score a tagging Ramirez to give the Indians a 4-0 advantage.
With five no-hit innings under his belt, Bauer struck out Chase Headley to start the sixth before Aaron Hicks doubled off of the wall in left for the Yankees’ first hit. He moved to third on a groundout by Brett Gardner, but for the third time on the night, Judge was cut down on strikes to waste the best scoring opportunity the Yankees would get against Bauer.
The Indians stranded a pair of walks in the bottom of the inning and Bauer was back out to start the seventh. After getting Sanchez on a grounder and Gregorius on a fly out, Starlin Castro singled to right. Manager Terry Francona elected to go to the bullpen, bringing in the left-hander Miller, who struck out Bird swinging for the third out.
Miller had a tougher time in the eighth. He struck out Frazier before walking Headley on the 12th pitch of a well-fought at bat by the Yankees DH. Hick struck out for the second out before Gardner drew a five-pitch walk off of his former teammate. With two on and two outs and Judge coming to the plate, Francona went back to his bullpen for his closer Allen and the move worked, as Allen struck out Judge for the fourth time on the night on a curveball out of the zone, stranding two key runners on base for New York.
Allen came back out for the ninth, retiring Sanchez on a comebacker to the mound. Gregorius struck out swinging for the second out before Castro sent his second single of the game into right field to keep the game alive for New York. Bird stepped in and ended those hopes, striking out swinging to give Cleveland a 1-0 series edge with their biggest weapon of all waiting in the wings Friday.
Bauer pitched just about as big as a starter could. He worked six and two-thirds innings of scoreless, two-hit baseball. He walked one batter and struck out eight while throwing 62 of 98 pitches for strikes.
“The mindset was to go out there like a closer in the first inning and put up a scoreless inning at all costs,” shared Bauer after the game. “And then if I was still in the game, do it again in the second inning and the third and on until I was taken out of the game. So no-hitter, ten-hitter, or whatever, that was the mindset. I never really strayed from that.”
“He was mixing his pitches well, he was using the corners extremely well,” said Judge of the man who struck him out three times on the night. “You’ve got to tip your cap sometimes. We’ve just got to pick ourselves up and get ready for tomorrow.”
Miller threw 30 pitches in an inning of work, striking out three but walking a pair. Allen earned the save with an inning and a third of one-hit relief, striking out three while throwing 16 of 20 pitches for strikes.
The Indians had only five hits off of the Yankees, but they made them count. Bruce led the way with a pair of extra base hits, his double that led to the Indians’ first run and his two-run homer that accounted for the second and third. His sacrifice fly drove in a third run on the night for the Tribe.
“I’m very, very fortunate to be here,” said Bruce. “I couldn’t have fallen into a better situation. Obviously, when you get traded and you’re in trade rumors, it’s usually a contender or a team that’s contending at the moment. For whatever reason, I ended up here. And this has been a blast so far.”
Bruce, for those who do not remember, had a pair of suitors before his August trade to Cleveland. The other club was the Yankees, who were unable to complete a deal with the New York Mets due to being unwilling to pay what remained on his 2017 contract. The Indians were willing to write that check, and the team is 43-9 with him on the roster.
Game 2 of the ALDS will pit a pair of former Indians Cy Young winners against one another. New York will send left-hander CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA) to the mound, while Cleveland will call on its ace, right-hander Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25). Sabathia won the Cy Young in Cleveland in 2007, when the Indians defeated the Yankees in the ALDS, and Kluber took home the hardware in 2014. He is a front-runner for the award this season.
If not stalled by the threat of rain in the northeast Ohio region, game time is scheduled for a 5:08 PM ET first pitch from Kluber on Friday.
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images