There was only one thing that could stop Trevor Bauer on Monday night, and it turned out to be one of the few things that he could not control in a 6-2 Indians win over the Chicago White Sox from downtown Cleveland.
Backed by a big second inning and steady adding on from a scuffling Tribe offense, Bauer provided the Indians with plenty of wiggle room by slowing down the struggling White Sox on a scorching hot and humid night at Progressive Field. Weather would be a factor as the ball jumped early before the winds shifted ahead of rains that would delay the game for 35 minutes in the bottom of the seventh inning, spelling an earlier end to the evening than Bauer might have hoped for.
Bauer got some help in the first inning from his catcher, Roberto Perez, who had a big night both at the plate and behind it despite battling a bug for the last several days. He threw out just his second attempted base stealer this season on the back end of a strikeout by Yolmer Sanchez to cut short a potential early scoring opportunity for the White Sox. Jose Abreu singled three pitches later.
The Indians put a pair on in the home half against Dylan Covey, making his second straight start against Cleveland. He worked around runners on the corners with two outs, getting Yonder Alonso to fly to right after a one-out single by Michael Brantley (who stole second and went to third on an error) and a walk by Edwin Encarnacion.
Bauer worked around trouble again in the second, as Matt Davidson doubled with one out but moved no further as the Tribe’s right-hander struck out the next two batters swinging.
Cleveland took the lead in the bottom of the second and never looked back. A leadoff single from Lonnie Chisenhall started things off and Rajai Davis reached on a fielding error up the middle by second baseman Yoan Moncada. Jason Kipnis dropped down a bunt and reached safely as Covey could not field the ball cleanly, setting the stage for a big hit from Perez, who hit a double that got wedged in the wall in right. Two scored on the ground-rule two-base knock, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead. Francisco Lindor made it a three-run edge with a sacrifice fly to left-center. The Indians would get another runner on with two outs on an intentional walk of Jose Ramirez, but Encarnacion left them both, striking out to end the inning.
Bauer got another double play in the third, as Moncada walked but was doubled up on a nicely turned 3-6-1 twin killing off of the bat of Sanchez. The Indians then tacked on another run, as Chisenhall walked with one out in the home half of the third before being forced at second on a grounder by Davis. Kipnis would drive him in with a single to right, making it 4-0 Cleveland. The Indians would load the bases on a walk by Perez and a hit by pitch of Lindor, but Brantley flied to right to leave the bags full.
Bauer worked his first true 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, recording another two strikeouts of the middle of the order, but the Indians would hit into a double play of their own to waste a leadoff walk by Ramirez. In the fifth, Charlie Tilson reached on an error by Alonso with two outs, but would move no further.
The Tribe got a big fly from a needed bat in the home half of the fifth in Covey’s final inning of work. With two down, Kipnis found a fastball to his liking and redirected the two-seamer to the seats in front of the right-center field bullpens to make it a 5-0 game.
Bauer set down the Sox in order in the sixth before the Indians added their final run of the game against the Chicago bullpen. The first three batters reached safely against former starter Hector Santiago, as Lindor walked, Brantley reached on an infield single, and Ramirez singled to left. Santiago struck out the next two, but walked Chisenhall on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run, making it a 6-0 ball game. Juan Minaya entered for manager Rick Renteria and got the final out, retiring out Davis with the third strikeout of the inning.
Both clubs would strand runners in the seventh, but the bottom half was slowed by the weather, leading Bauer to be held in the dugout by manager Terry Francona despite a desire to return to the mound at the start of the eighth to finish what he had started. Evan Marshall came on and retired the first batter before letting the next three reach, with the latter Sanchez single scoring the Sox’s first run of the game. Marshall would not be able to get out of the inning, however, leaving with right elbow soreness. Neil Ramirez wrapped up the inning for him.
Chicago added one more in the ninth against the fourth Tribe pitcher, Dan Otero. With one out, Davidson barreled a sinker low in the zone and left the yard with his team-high 13th homer of the season, making it a 6-2 game before Otero got the final two outs.
The Indians improved to 38-33 on the year with the win and are now 22-13 at Progressive Field this season. They gained one-half game on idle Detroit, pushing their lead in the AL Central to three games. The White Sox fell to 24-47 with their fifth straight loss and are 12-23 on the road.
BELIEVE IN BAUER
Bauer fought hard to have an opportunity at his first career Major League shutout and third complete game, even threatening violence despite being at the 100-pitch mark with seven innings in the books.
“[Pitching coach] Carl Willis was lucky he didn’t come tell me,” joked Bauer after the game during his usually insightful press conferences. “I told him anyone but Tito and I was throwing fists.”
Francona gave further insight on his pitcher’s mindset prior to the eighth.
“I give him credit, man. Even during the rain delay, he was politicking. It just doesn’t make sense. But I gotta tell you, if you’re going to get into a little bit of a push and shove, I like it that he wants to stay in. I respect the hell out of it. I just didn’t think it made sense. I don’t have any doubt he could have done it, too.”
The shorter outing may have cost Bauer an opportunity to tie Corey Kluber’s franchise record for consecutive double-digit strikeout starts at five in a row. It did continue Bauer’s streak of reaching 100 pitches in every start this year. His final line included seven scoreless innings, three hits and two walks allowed, and eight strikeouts on the way to his sixth win of the year. The zero in the runs column knocked his ERA down to 2.50.
DEFENSE AND COMMAND FAIL COVEY
Covey was not aided by the defense behind him, as a throwing error by his catcher, a fielding error by Moncada, and his own throwing error helped make worse the traffic that he put on base in five innings of work. He allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits, walking five and striking out a pair.
STARTED AT THE BOTTOM
The eight-nine hitters in the Tribe lineup combined to go 5-for-7 with a walk, two runs scored, and four runs batted in on the night. Kipnis went 3-for-4 with his fifth homer, two singles, two runs scored, and two runs batted in. Perez went 2-for-3 with two doubles and a walk while knocking in a pair.
Prior to the game, the Indians made a couple of roster moves.
Alonso was activated from the Family Medical Emergency list on Monday after spending the minimum three days inactive. Outfielder Greg Allen’s extended stay in Cleveland came to an end as he was optioned to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Alonso’s return.
The Indians also welcomed back a former friend of the feather, signing left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a minor league contract. The 32-year-old southpaw will report to Columbus, where he will make his first minor league appearances since 2013.
It will be a rematch of the series finale from Chicago last Thursday as left-hander Carlos Rodon (0-1, 3.60 ERA) and Mike Clevinger (5-2, 3.15) square off again, this time from Progressive Field in a 7:10 PM ET start.
Rodon took a no-decision last week, leaving after 100 pitches and five innings of work after allowing two runs on two hits with three walks. Clevinger earned the win to give the Indians a series split, striking out a career-high eleven batters in seven innings of work with two runs surrendered on five hits and a walk.
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