ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.: The good news for the Indians: Trevor Bauer gave up only two hits in five innings. The bad news: He walked seven and gave up a home run.
Inasmuch as the Tribe lost to the Rays 6-0 Saturday night, the bad news obviously was more significant.
Then again, Bauer didn’t pitch much better or worse than should have been expected, considering that the 22-year-old right-hander had started only four major-league games and is known as a kid with great stuff whose command of the strike zone is seriously lacking.
Bauer was summoned from Columbus to make his Tribe debut, because Scott Kazmir was forced to go on the disabled list with a strained rib cage and can’t be activated until at least April 17.
To say that Bauer struggled would be a mammoth understatement.
He walked the first four batters he faced in the first inning to force in a run but was saved further grief when Ryan Raburn snatched Yunel Escobar’s line drive out of the air in right and threw out Matt Joyce trying to score from third.
“That’s a rough way to start a game,” manager Terry Francona said. “But tell you what, he didn’t back off, he competed.”
As Bauer described the inning, “The bases are loaded, there’s one run in, and I still don’t have an out. Oh, oh….”
After retiring the side in order in the second without running the count to three balls, Bauer opened the third by walking Desmond Jennings, who promptly stole second and third. Good thing he did, as far as Bauer was concerned.
Joyce followed by slapping a routine ground ball to third. With Jennings on the move, Lonnie Chisenhall relayed the ball to the plate, and when the bodies were sorted out after Jennings’ shoulder block on Lou Marson, the umpire signaled that the catcher had held onto the ball for the out.
After a lengthy discussion with head trainer Lonnie Soloff, Marson was allowed to continue the inning, but just before the Rays came to the plate in the fourth, Francona pulled him from the game. Carlos Santana, the Indians’ regular catcher but the designated hitter Saturday night, had to move behind the plate, which meant the Tribe would lose its designated hitter.
“Marson’s neck stiffened up,” Francona said. “He’s still being evaluated. We gave him all the concussion tests. If there’s a gray area, I’d rather be accused of being overly cautious.”
There were no complaints by Marson about the collision.
“He got me pretty good,” the catcher said. “But it was clean.”
Bauer suddenly was thrust into the lineup and came to bat once, tried to bunt but watched strike three cross the plate.
“I thought I was out of the National League,’’ he said. “This gave me a new appreciation of the guys I was facing.”
Despite the fact that he walked three batters in the third inning, the Rays were unable to score. They did not hit safely against Bauer until Jose Molina singled with one out in the fourth. That would not have been a big deal, except that Kelly Johnson, the ninth batter in the lineup, followed with a home run.
Bauer did not come out for the sixth, having thrown 105 pitches, only 56 percent for strikes.
Asked whether he was getting a fair shake from the umpire, Bauer said, “I was missing by feet not inches.’’
The game was just shy of bizarre and included these two events:
• After the sixth inning, Matt Albers was ejected when he complained to umpire C.B. Bucknor for calling Escobar safe at second hustling his way into a double to start the inning.
• Plate umpire Dale Scott warned both benches after Cody Allen hit Evan Longoria in the backside leading off the seventh inning. There seemed to be no reason why Allen would throw purposely at Longoria.
Under the circumstances, it didn’t really matter whether Bauer walked seven or 17, inasmuch as the Tribe didn’t score.
“We’re scuffling a little bit,” Francona said. “These types of things tend to get exaggerated because it’s early. I hang my hat on these guys having a track record.”
Indians batsmen produced only five hits — seven for the first two games of the series — and have been shut out for 19 consecutive innings.
It is one thing to blame the drought on the excellence of the opposing pitchers. But the past two nights the Indians have faced seven pitchers. Can all of them be facsimiles of Cy Young?
Unfortunately, for the Tribe, old Cy probably would be proud to have his name associated with David Price, who will start for the Rays today.