Twenty final thoughts after a big victory on Motown Night at Comerica Park, highlighted by two home runs by Jason Kipnis and an outstanding national anthem by The Four Tops.
1. If Trevor Bauer were testifying in court, the Indians right-hander would be one of those a lawyer would never ask a question without knowing the answer. And with Bauer, even if you thought you knew, he might surprise you.
2. A seemingly innocuous question about what Bauer did over the All-Star break after Friday's game resulted in an amazing tale for a major league starter.
3. Bauer said he stayed in Cleveland so he could prepare for what he considered an important starting assignment as the first Tribe pitcher to take the mound in the second half. But he couldn’t get into Progressive Field on Monday because he said they were setting up for a concert, Friday’s show featuring Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert and Florida Georgia Line.
4. So what did Bauer do? He took four baseballs he’d brought from his locker on Sunday, went to a park near his apartment in Tremont and threw against a chain-link fence. Alone.
5. “I just found a fence, took four baseballs out there and threw them into the fence. Walked and picked ‘em up,” Bauer said. “That’s what I did all of high school." He had a bucket of balls then, not four.
6. Surprisingly, no one spied Bauer and offered to catch for him. He said once in high school, “I had a tennis instructor trying to steal my baseballs."
7. On Wednesday, Bauer went back to Progressive Field to try and throw a bullpen session, but they wouldn’t let him step on the field (presumably again because of the concert.) “I had to warm up in the bullpen,” he said.
8. While some might have wondered why Indians manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway chose Bauer as the starter coming out of the break instead of Corey Kluber (going in Saturday’s first game of a day-night doubleheader), it turned out to be not as much of a gamble as it looked. Bauer gave up three runs on six hits in six innings and gave his team a chance to win. Against a Tigers lineup led by two-time defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera and ex-Indian Victor Martinez, Bauer (4-4, 3.89) did not give up a home run, extending his string to 25 1/3 innings. He worked at least six innings for the eighth time in his last 10 games and 10 of his last 13 this season.
9. He continued to show he gets stronger as the game goes on, throwing 101 pitches, 67 for strikes.
10. Bauer obviously took the start seriously, although some would say he takes everything seriously. He became the second Indians pitcher to start the last game before the All-Star break and the first game after, joining Wayne Garland in 1977.
11. “I like pitching big games,” Bauer said. “Obviously with a double-header tomorrow it was important to go out there tonight and pitch well and save the bullpen a little bit. I know they’ve had some time at the All-Star break, but two games in one day is tough. Starting off the road trip, I feel like this is a big game for the team, it’s good to go out there and turn in a good outing and get a win.”
12. Francona had to be encouraged that Bauer said he felt out of synch and still gutted it out.
13. “I didn’t think tonight he had his best breaking ball, but he got to two strikes quite a few times and didn’t really have something to put ‘em away, or they fouled it off or got a base hit. But he still competed and kept us in the game,” Francona said. “All of a sudden we get runs that are meaningful as opposed to just mounting a comeback.”
14. Bauer said, “I couldn’t locate my fastball up in the zone. Everything was down and the off-speed was up, which is generally not a good combination for me. But I hung in there, the defense threw a guy out at the plate which is huge, kept a run off the board and gave me an out. It’s a good win for the team, especially coming off the break and coming from behind like that.
15. “I’ve always battled like that. I’m usually able to find a way to navigate through things. It’s very rare it spirals out of control for me. I’ll take it on a night I don’t feel good. Go six innings and three runs and the team comes up huge in the seventh like that, it’s good.”
16. It was a big night for more than just Bauer. The bats of several struggling Indians seemed like they might be awakening. Ryan Raburn came through with a pinch-hit double in a seven-run seventh to tie the game. Nick Swisher drove in the first two runs with a single to right center. Jason Kipnis notched the second two-homer game of his career. His three-run blast in the seventh, when he crushed a slider from Al Alburquerque, was his first since April 21. Kipnis added a solo shot to right in the ninth, giving him five for the season.
17. Raburn replaced David Murphy in the top of the seventh and went 2 for 3 with two doubles, raising his average to .208. He could have been especially gratified since the crowd booed him repeatedly. He was drafted by the Tigers in the fifth round in 2001 and stayed with the organization until he was released in November, 2012. Raburn hit just .171 in 66 games for the Tigers that season before being sent down to Triple-A Toledo.
18. Asked if he heard the boos, Raburn said, “When can’t I? I’ve heard it for two, three years now. I guess it’s part of the game.”
19. But he said that didn’t make his game-tying double any sweeter. “No, not really. I don’t have any ill feelings towards anybody here. I had a bad year the last year I was here. My goal is to help this ballclub as much as I can.”
20. Raburn acknowledged how big it was, for him and for the Indians, helping them climb above .500 in the first game of a four-game series against the AL Central leaders. “In every way imaginable it was huge, for me personally and for the team,” he said.