Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer insisted that no bad blood or ill feelings remain between him and his former team that made a mid-week visit to Progressive Field Wednesday for a double header following Tuesday’s postponement due to rain.
Yet plenty of attitude and perhaps even some resentment was once shared between the sides, enough to spark an off-season trade two years ago that landed Bauer – the third overall pick in the 2011 draft - and veteran reliever Bryan Shaw in Cleveland.
But just in case there were any doubts as to how the ultra-competitive Bauer would handle the situation, the young right-hander went out and proved it’s mere water under the bridge as helped lead the Indians to a 3-2 victory in the first game of Wednesday’s twin bill.
Bauer ended up with a no-decision in the close game, but had fashioned a no-hit bid through five innings and went on to limit the Diamondbacks to two runs over a career-best eight innings that included nine strikeouts.
Of course, the clubs might still be playing the way the pitching staff’s competed against each other. Luckily for the Indians, newcomer Zack Walters picked a clutch moment to hit his first career walk-off home run – a solo shot against reliever Randall Delgado that just snuck over the right field wall with one out in the ninth inning.
Walters just joined the Indians organization a week and a half ago, when he was acquired at the trade deadline from the Washington Nationals for veteran shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Part of the allure of selecting the versatile Walters, according to Tribe General Manger Chris Antonetti, was his power potential.
Originally sent to Triple-A Columbus, Walters was called up Sunday after right fielder David Murphy (oblique) and designated hitter Nick Swisher (knee) went on the disabled list with injuries.
Yet, while Walters fourth career home run ended the game, it was Bauer’s increasing maturity that helped the Tribe get to that point.
Unlike the right-hander’s usual pattern where he takes a few innings to settle in, Bauer had command from the get-go. He aggressively pounded the strike zone and buzzed through the Diamondbacks lineups nearly twice before his command briefly began to falter in the sixth inning.
Instead of letting it get to him, Bauer calmly limited the inning’s damage to a run on two hits and a walk after Xavier Paul sliced a clean, line-drive single down the right field line to snap Bauer’s no-hit bid with one on via a walk and no outs. A double play helped Bauer quickly get out of trouble, but a run scored on the play to put the Diamondbacks on the board first.
With one out in the seventh inning, the Diamondbacks got to Bauer again for a run when Mark Trumbo singled then scored on Aaron Hill’s groundout to tie the score 2-2.
Meanwhile, Vidal Nuno - a former Indians 48th-round 2009 draft pick who was later released - matched Bauer out-for-out early on.
Nuno retired the first eight batters he faced, including the first five of six via strikeout. But the Indians first hit against the left-hander came with two outs in the third inning, when rookie Tyler Holt singled to left field.
The Tribe threatened again in the seventh after Mike Aviles led off with a ground rule double, as his ball dropped into left field then rolled under the large rolled-up Progressive Field tarp. But a double play helped Nuno get out of the inning unharmed.
The Indians finally broke through against Nuno in the sixth inning, eventually chasing him from the game with two runs in and two outs. The rookie Walters started the rally with a single to left. With one out two batters later, Jason Kipnis singled to right field and advanced to second base on a throwing error that put both runners in scoring position.
Just like he has most of the season, Michael Brantley delivered in the clutch. The Tribe’s center fielder sent a shot under the glove of second baseman Aaron Hill, producing a two-run single that briefly put the Indians ahead by a run and soon put an end to Nuno’s once-promising outing that ended in a no-decision after 5 2/3 innings.