CLEVELAND – If all of Trevor Bauer’s starts were at home, he might be an All Star. However, that’s not the way this game works.
Bauer improved to 4-2 and continued the Indians rotation’s run of solid pitching in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Houston. The right-hander went five-plus innings and allowed no runs on four hits with three walks, a hit batter and nine strikeouts. It was also Bauer’s first win since July 18 at Detroit, snapping a string of six straight winless decisions where he was 0-2. The Indians though were 3-3 in those games.
"It was nice to be ahead when I came out of the game," said Bauer, who got a standing ovation from the crowd of 17,123 at Progressive Field when he came out. "When I’m ahead, I’m better off than when I’m behind. That was kind of the focus all day long.
"It turned out well. I got away with a couple mistakes that helped out. The defense made some really nice plays that helped out, too. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Hopefully we can keep it going."
In 11 starts at home this season, Bauer is 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA. In his nine road starts, he is 1-5 with a 5.81 ERA, including his last two where he allowed five runs in the first at New York and Minnesota.
The bigger concern has been Bauer’s slow starts. Of the 55 earned runs he’s allowed, 23 have come in the first two innings. On Sunday, three of the first eight batters reached base but he was able to work around them. The one difference this time is that Bauer started off with just his fastball and breaking ball early before going with his other pitches.
Francona said after the game that Bauer’s changeup was the best he has seen from him this season.
"I had a feel for my fastball and my cutter early and it worked out," Bauer said.
Added Francona: "He’ll go three or four balls in a row, but then you look up and he’s still throwing a lot of strikes. He just has periods where he kind of loses what he’s doing. He kept them off the scoreboard. He had a lot of swing-and-miss."
Bauer also got some help from Tyler Holt, who made two diving catches in right to rob Marc Krauss of hits with a runner on base.
After dropping Friday’s season opener, the Tribe took the last two to win the series. Since dropping three of four to the Reds, the Indians have won four of the last five series and split the other. It is only the sixth time in 23 instances though where they have come back to take a series after dropping the opener. The Indians remain 4 1/2 games out of the final Wild Card spot and trail Kansas City by six in the division. Starting Tuesday in Chicago, the Indians begin a run where 19 of their next 20 are against AL Central teams.
A big key to the Indians winning of their last 13 is the rotation, which has a 1.71 ERA with 87 strikeouts to 21 walks while holding opponents to a .176 batting average. Offensively, Jose Ramirez had his second three-hit game of the season along with an RBI while Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall each had two hits.
"They are throwing the ball great. You usually go as your rotation goes and we’ve been playing great ball the last 10-14 days," said reliever Scott Atchison. "They had some ups and downs early in the year but guys are getting comfortable "
The Indians have had a solid rotation despite some moving parts. Corey Kluber and Bauer’s spots were secure after the All-Star Break but Danny Salazar has done well since returning from Columbus and T.J. House continues to put up some quality innings. The biggest surprise might be Carlos Carrasco, who has allowed only one earned run in his three starts since coming back to the rotation.
"It’s just every day you run a new guy out there and have this feeling that he’s going to post a really good start and we’re going to win the game," Bauer said. "It’s nice to have that confidence as a team every day, when you know that your guy is going to go out there and give you a chance to win and post the numbers we’re putting up right now."