If there was any question as to how ready Trevor Bauer was to become a member of the Indians starting rotation and not just a spot-start fill in, Tuesday’s performance likely provided the answers anyone needed.
The Tribe’s highly thought of right-hander out pitched Detroit’s veteran ace Justin Verlander Tuesday to help guide the Indians to a 6-2 victory and second consecutive win over their division rivals at Progressive Field.
Called up from Triple-A Columbus Tuesday to take the vacant spot of struggling right-hander Danny Salazar, a matured Bauer shook off an early set back via a 429-foot blast of a home run by Torii Hunter that gave the explosive Tigers offesne a 1-0 lead just two batters into the game.
Unphased, Bauer went on to scatter seven hits over six-plus innings, limiting the Tigers to just one more run – another solo homer by catcher Alex Avila that led off the fifth inning.
Of course it helped to have an early cushion with which to work, as the Indians offense battered Verlander for five runs over the first two innings, including a four-run second inning that featured three doubles.
But Bauer, 23, also was the benefactor of solid defense behind him (not a given by the club that leads the major leagues in errors) along with a little luck via a manager replay challenge that overturned a close play on the field and allowed him get out of a sixth-inning jam unsctahed.
With one Detroit out and two on after Bauer issued back-to-back walks in the sixth inning, Nick Castellanos hit into what was first ruled a fielder’s choice. But Indians manager Terry Francona challenged the close call at first base after Bauer hustled over over to cover the bag and dug out a low throw by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera in the dirt.
After a 2:25 delay, the call was overturned (giving Francona his foruth win in 10 challenges), leaving Bauer to pound his fist in his glove as he excitedly jogged of the mound.
In a rarity, Verlander gave up five runs on 11 hits and three walks as he battled his command throughout the night before giving way to the Tigers bullpen.
In constrast, Bauer left the mound to a standing ovation with one and no outs in the seventh inning and the Indians holding a 5-2 lead.
David Murphy added an insurance solo homerun with one out in the bottom of the inning, Bryan Shaw added two hitless inning of relief and Cody Allen picked up the save in the ninth by retiuring the Tigers side in order, beginning with striking out the always dangerous Victor Martinez.