Every now and then, something happens over the course of a sporting event that takes away from the final results of the day. That will be the story for some time for Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland Indians, as the starter became the focus of attention after a fifth inning collapse led to an embarrassing on-field display from the 28-year-old veteran hurler.
The big inning paced the Kansas City Royals to a 9-6 come-from-behind victory from Kauffman Stadium on Sunday.
Momentum was in the Indians favor and spirits were high after a fourth straight win on Saturday pulled the club within one game of tying the Minnesota Twins for the top spot in the American League Central. The Indians got out to an early lead while looking for a four-game sweep of the Royals, thanks to a loud return to the lineup by Carlos Santana and his three-run home run in the first, but the Royals roared back in a rally that led to an unexpected display on the mound from Bauer.
Santana took Danny Duffy deep after back-to-back singles by Francisco Lindor and Oscar Mercado to start the game. The Royals countered with a leadoff double by Whit Merrifield to start the home half of the first and Hunter Dozier drove him in with an RBI-single to left to make it 3-1. Bauer was aided on a stellar play by Jose Ramirez and Jake Bauers to end the inning.
The Indians stranded a pair of runners in both the second and third innings before a defensive miscue allowed the Royals to tie the game. Alex Gordon singled and Dozier walked to start the Royals half of the third. Jorge Soler popped out with the infield fly rule called. Bauer uncorked a wild pitch to move both runners up before Ryan O’Hearn grounded to Bauers at first. He scrambled to the bag for the out and curiously fired towards the plate, where Gordon was scoring easily. His throw sailed high of Roberto Perez, allowing Dozier to cross on the E3 to tie the game at three.
An error by the Royals aided the Tribe in the fourth. Greg Allen singled and Mike Freeman reached on an error by Merrifield. After Lindor flied to right, Mercado flied to left deep enough for Allen to score the go-ahead run. Jordan Luplow led off the next inning with his eleventh blast of the season, giving Cleveland a 5-3 lead on his drive to the bullpen.
Things fell apart for Bauer in the bottom of the fifth. Gordon singled and Dozier hit a ground-rule double on a ball lost in the sun by Mercado. Soler walked on a payoff pitch to load the bases. O’Hearn hit a dribbler in front of the plate that Bauer was unable to glove flip to Perez, allowing Gordon to score to make it 5-4. Cheslor Cuthbert blooped in a single just out of the reach of a diving Freeman at second to score another run to tie the game. Bubba Starling struck out but Nicky Lopez shot a bullet back up the middle past Bauer to score both Soler and O’Hearn as the Royals took a 7-5 lead. The frustrated Bauer, upon seeing manager Terry Francona coming out of the third base dugout, fired the baseball from just behind the pitcher’s mound to the batter’s eye in dead center, stunning those in attendance and others watching the broadcast. Francona was clearly displeased with the right-hander, who seemed to have realized the gravity of the situation and adjusted his demeanor apologetically towards his manager before exiting to the clubhouse tunnel ahead of a likely uncomfortable conversation between the two.
Back on the field, Tyler Clippard allowed a single up the middle by Meibrys Viloria on an 0-2 pitch to give the Royals an 8-5 lead. Merrifield singled to right to reload the bases, but Clippard struck out Gordon swinging and got Dozier to pop up to Bauers in foul territory to end the onslaught.
The Royals added another run leading off the bottom of the sixth when Soler hit his 28th homer of the year before Clippard struck out the next three.
Duffy exited after six, replaced by Kevin McCarthy. He worked a scoreless seventh, but gave up a solo homer to Ramirez on a high fastball in to lead off the eighth, his fourth straight game with a home run and his 14th long ball of the campaign. Tim Hill relieved with one out and escaped the inning after a Bauers walk with a double play grounder. Ian Kennedy needed just six pitches in the ninth to get three fly ball outs while locking up his 20th save of the season.
The loss ended the Indians’ four-game winning streak and dropped the club to 62-43 on the year. They now sit two games in back of the Twins in the division. The win was the 40th for the Royals in 107 chances.
Duffy ended a long personal losing streak against the Indians, despite not pitching one of his better games of the season. Backed by plenty of run support, he worked six innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits with a pair of walks and five strikeouts. He moved back to .500 on the season at 5-5. The bullpen allowed just one run on one hit with one walk over the final three innings.
Bauer was yanked with one out in the fifth after allowing eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits with four walks and six strikeouts. He fell to 9-8 on the season. His display prior to leaving the field led to the following lengthy post-game apology:
“First and foremost, I owe a sincere apology to all of my teammates, my coaching staff, the organization, and all of our fans for how I conducted myself today. It’s unbecoming. It was childish. Unprofessional. There’s no place for it in the game. I’m happy it didn’t result in any physical injury for anybody else. I realize I put people in danger. I want to be clear that my frustrations were with myself and my inability to stop the situation and keep my team in the game. It was not directed at any of my teammates, even though I know that it came off that way. I love going to battle with my guys every day and today I feel like I really let them down, both personally and professionally. I’m an intense competitor and that fire is what drives me and today it completely consumed me, took over. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for how I behaved. I’ll be better about it. It won’t happen again. If my teammates and the organization are willing to forgive me and continue accepting me to the brotherhood, I look forward to getting back out there with my guys next time and continuing on our road and our fight for what we set out to do this season, which is win a World Series.”
It was unknown after the game if Bauer would face any sort of disciplinary action from the Indians or from Major League Baseball for his display of frustration. He is still expected to conduct his “Bauer Outage Wiffleball” event at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, on Monday afternoon.
Eight of nine Indians starters recorded a hit, but no player had more than one knock on the afternoon. Five of the six runs scored by Cleveland came courtesy of the home run. The Royals lineup was top heavy, with each of the first four hitters in the lineup recording two hits apiece. Gordon, Dozier, and Soler, the two through four hitters, each scored twice. Starling had a rough day at the plate as his eleven-game hitting streak ended with a golden sombrero. He struck out in all four trips on the afternoon in just his second hitless game of the 13 in which he has logged a plate appearance.
The Indians will take Monday off prior to hosting the Houston Astros in a huge three-game series to wrap up the month of July. Right-hander Shane Bieber (10-3, 3.44 ERA) will match up with fellow All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander (13-4, 2.86) in the series opener from Progressive Field on Tuesday night in a 7:10 PM ET first pitch. The two clubs split a four-game set in Houston earlier in the year.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images