CLEVELAND: The Indians did a nice job of encapsulating the first half of their season in a 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox (45-51) on Sunday afternoon, the final game before the four-day All-Star break.
First, there was Trevor Bauer continuing to progress as a major-league starter, turning in his finest performance to date in his young career. Bauer, 23, set a career high by striking out 10 batters over 6⅔ innings. Seventy-four of his 117 pitches went for strikes, impressive considering command has been Bauer’s Achilles’ heel. He walked three and allowed eight hits without conceding a run.
“As the game progressed, like he does, he got stronger,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “When we leave him out there up over 110 [pitches], that tells you how we feel he’s pitching.”
Bauer received some help in the second inning when Mike Aviles showed off some never-before-seen arm strength, doubling Conor Gillaspie off first base from the corner in left field on a fly ball.
“Move over [Yoenis] Cespedes,” joked Indians catcher Yan Gomes. “We’ve got Mike Aviles throwing balls like that.”
However, a lack of quality defense and clutch hitting from that play on looked like it might squander a quality pitching performance, as has often been the case this season.
At the time of Bauer’s removal, which was met with a standing ovation and a cap tip, the Indians (47-47) had scored just one run with 10 runners left on base.
In the eighth inning, a pitch from reliever Bryan Shaw skipped under the glove of Gomes, allowing the tying run to advance from first to second. The next batter, Gordon Beckham, hit a ground ball up the middle that second baseman Jason Kipnis had a play at but couldn’t get a glove on. Kipnis wasn’t charged with an error, but the misplay cost the Indians a run and Bauer a win.
“Instead of maybe knocking it down, he tried to make a play and it got under his glove,” Francona said. “Sometimes the outcome isn’t exactly the way he pitched. Bryan is pretty consistent with what he takes out there.”
No worries, though, because the Indians came back with some late heroics, as has also been the case often this year.
Designated hitter Nick Swisher led off the eighth with a bloop single to left field, beating the shift. The next batter, Gomes, dealing with an illness, also used the opposite field.
In a 1-0 count, Gomes sliced a foul ball into the right field corner, barely missing a double. The next pitch, he was able to straighten it out, hitting his 11th home run of the year over the right field wall to give the Indians a 3-2 lead.
“To get the winning hit is definitely a good feeling,” Gomes said. “I was really trying to do the same thing Swisher did. If they’re giving you a big hole the other way, I was just trying to get a pitch to stay on top and drive it the other way.”
To finish summarizing the Indians’ season, Cody Allen worked another perfect ninth inning, converting his 12th save of the season and 11th in his past 11 chances.
The Indians sit at .500 with a 47-47 record heading into the All-Star break. This time last year, the Indians were 50-44.
“I wish our record was better,” Francona said. “But I do think the way we’ve played, now the next couple months if we play good baseball, it will be very exciting.”