Indians’ Bauer going for history at Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. — Trevor Bauer will pursue a piece of Cleveland Indians history Friday night when he opens a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics.

Having recorded at least eight strikeouts in all five of his starts this month, Bauer needs 16 to match Hall of Famer Bob Feller’s franchise record of 70 for the month of June, set in 1946.

Bauer’s career high for strikeouts in a game is 14, set last May against the A’s in just seven innings.

More realistically, the California native needs 10 strikeouts to equal the second-best June total in Indians history, set by Sam McDowell in 1965.

Bauer (7-5, 2.44), who ranks third in the American League in strikeouts, has recorded 10 or more six times in his last eight starts, going 5-2 in the process.

The 27-year-old right-hander has never won in Oakland, going 0-2 with a 5.14 ERA in three starts. He’s 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA in five career starts against the A’s overall.

One A’s hitter Bauer has dominated in the past is hot-hitting Jed Lowrie, who has gone 1-for-9 in his career against him with five strikeouts in their all-time head-to-heads.

Lowrie had 15 hits in nine starts on Oakland’s just-completed road trip, raising his average to .294.

Bauer will be facing an A’s team that’s playing its best ball of the season. Oakland is coming off a four-game sweep at Detroit that capped a 7-2 trip.

The A’s have won nine of 11 overall.

The A’s have been even better against the Indians in recent years, winning seven of the last eight meetings in Oakland, including all three on Cleveland’s visit last July.

Right-hander Paul Blackburn (1-2, 8.83) will oppose Bauer.

The 24-year-old has alternated good and bad outings in his four appearances since returning from a strained right forearm that delayed the start of his season almost two full months.

He’s coming off one of the ugly ones, having allowed six runs and eight hits in five innings in a 10-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, but A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson noted he was impressed with the first four innings, during Blackburn pitched scoreless, one-hit ball.

“It was tough for him, one rehab stint and then thrown into the fire,” Emerson said of the abrupt start to Blackburn’s season. “We’re past that now, and I told him now is when we start putting our stuff together and getting the outs we’re supposed to get. We can’t use (the injury) as a crutch anymore. It’s go time; he understands that.”

Blackburn has made one career start against the Indians, compiling a 0-0 record and 4.50 ERA.

The Indians head west after having lost two of three in St. Louis. They had won their previous seven games.

The Indians actually beat the A’s into Oakland, having had Thursday off while the A’s were finishing up their trip in Detroit.

They are coming off a 5-1 win over the Cardinals in which rookie Shane Bieber not only recorded his third straight win but also his first major league hit, a double off fellow rookie Jack Flaherty.

The A’s won’t see Bieber in the series … except as a possible pinch hitter.