Here are 14 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 9-4 win against the Oakland A’s Tuesday night.
1. Trevor Buaer had the kind of start that everyone knows he’s at least capable of throwing each time out there, the instances have just been scattered around. Seven innings pitched, a career-high 14 K’s. It was the most K’s in a single game by an American League pitcher this season and one off the best mark in the majors by Washington's Stephen Strasburg.
2. Tuesday night’s performance was fueled by the curveball, the pitch Bauer has considered to be his best. He entered throwing it 21 percent of the time, according to BrooksBaseball.net. On Tuesday night, he threw it 46 times per Baseball Savant, more-so than any other pitch. He also threw it earlier in counts, using it as a more diverse weapon than simply an out-pitch.
3. When Bauer can control it, his curveball can do some damage. That, combined with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and the ability to play the pitches off of each other, and it’s one of the reasons Bauer has long been considered to have a high ceiling, even though he has been inconsistent to say the least.
4. Catcher Roberto Perez: “I think so, especially early in the year, guys started swinging at the first-pitch fastball off Trevor Bauer. We were talking and said, 'We've got to use the curveball more. I think that's one of your best pitches.' Why not throw it first pitch? Because we were throwing it 0-2 every time, and guys were laying off. And if you throw it for a strike, there's a time to strike out a guy, but not if he's going to throw it for a strike. If he's going to bounce it. So, you put a little bit of pressure on a hitter.”
5. Indians manager Terry Francona: “You know what, because early on they get three and Gray was really throwing the ball well, just his off-speed, breaking ball and changeup. And then when we got the four, boy Trev put his foot on the gas. That was really – we talk so much about shutdown innings, but when we scored, he went out and he struck out the next nine out of 10. And he was aggressive and rearing back. That was really fun to watch.”
6. It’s difficult to have much confidence to say which Bauer the Indians will get in any given start. He carries about as high of a ceiling but also about as low of a floor as most pitchers, in each direction. His season ERA is now an even but less-than-desirable 6.00. But, he’ll also occasionally have outings like Tuesday night.
7. Bauer had a stretch last season while working with Chris Gimenez that led to the longest quality-start streak of his career. Part of that change in direction was simplifying the pitches he was throwing and the sequencing. And a big part of that was how he used the curveball, being able to throw it in more counts and have it as a less-predictable pitch. It worked Tuesday night, as it did for a stretch last year. Bauer still might have a long way to go, but it helps that he flashes this potential every now and then.
8. As he spoke with reporters, Bauer had an authenticated baseball with him. It was one of the balls he threw on Tuesday night, though not necessarily the 14th strikeout, the one that notched his career high. Bauer didn’t exactly seem to put a lot of value in it. It was just another ball from another start to him. Bauer wasn’t sure what he’d do with it, then said, “I'll probably just throw it into my bag of offseason balls or something, I guess. I don't know. I'll figure it out later.” Mementos aren’t for everyone.
9. Bradley Zimmer went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run and four RBI. He seems to have adjusted to major-league pitching nicely, now posting a .314 average. He’s beaten out a couple of infield hits, he’s driven two balls out of the park and he’s handled center field. The fanfare of Zimmer’s debut wasn’t met with the same ferocity of Francisco Lindor’s, but Zimmer has actually gotten off to a faster start than Lindor did, when it took him a few weeks to hit his stride before, obviously, quickly emerging as one of the premiere players in baseball.
10. Zimmer: “I’ve just treated it like I’ve treated like I’ve done in the past. Just because I’m in the big leagues now doesn’t mean I need to do anything different. I just need to continue to be myself and do what I need to do to contribute, helps this team win, ultimately.”
11. Zimmer hit his two-RBI double to right field with an exit velocity of 114.6 mph, according to Baseball Savant. That’s the hardest-hit ball by an Indians player in the Statcast era (tip of the cap to TJ Zuppe of The Athletic for pointing that out).
12. Francona: “There was a little bit of velocity there in a couple of those at-bats. He hit the ball early into left field for an out, but it’s fun to watch. He’s exciting once he gets going, too, on the bases. He’s given us a real lift. It’s been fun to watch.”
13. Zimmer’s locker in the clubhouse is right next to Lindor’s. As Zimmer was talking to reporters and Lindor was gathering his things to leave, Lindor repeatedly said “Baller. Baller. Say it, I’m a baller” throughout the interview, getting a laugh out of Zimmer.
14. Zimmer eventually replied, “Not yet. I’ve got to get a Louis Vuitton backpack like Frankie, then I’ll be a baller.”