Trevor Bauer has never been able to put it all together. Drafted third overall in 2011 by the Arizona Diamondbacks—a draft that included other first-rounders such as Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, José Fernández and Sonny Gray—Bauer was arguably the most promising of the bunch.
He was a consensus top-10 prospect ahead of 2012. He was one of those “can’t-miss” players. But for years it never clicked, and missed he did. Over and over again.
Then July 27, 2017 rolled around.
In 13 appearances from then on—12 of them starts—Bauer would record 85 strikeouts and just 19 walks over 78 innings. He would also pitch to the tune of a 2.42 ERA. Opponents were hitting just .254 against him. And despite surrendering 11 home runs over that span, Cleveland kept cruising whenever he took the mound.
Still, people were a little confused at the decision to start Bauer over Corey Kluber in Game 1. No matter how well Bauer had been pitching, why not take your best shot in Game 1, right?
Turns out, Bauer would give us the best pitching performance of the 2017 MLB Postseason thus far, stymieing the New York Yankees all night. His final line: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 8 K. And, through 5.1 innings, he was perfect. He didn’t need to be perfect, per se. But, Cleveland would run into a couple issues of their own.
Despite jumping out to a 4-0 lead after five innings, their offense sputtered when given multiple chances to break the game wide open. After loading the bases in the second inning with nobody out, Cleveland only plated a run. After loading the bases again in the fourth—this time with one out—Cleveland couldn’t pile on.
This postseason is stacked with offense, and the Yankees are no different. Seeing them rip off four straight runs wouldn’t have been surprising. But for Bauer, it didn’t matter. He’d end up throwing 62 of his 98 pitches for strikes (63 percent), keeping them off balance all night. Aaron Judge went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, with three coming against Bauer.
Quickly, the Yankees realized they weren’t facing the Minnesota Twins anymore.
Andrew Miller—who clearly didn’t have his best stuff while walking two in an inning of work Thursday night—still struck out three. Then Cody Allen, asked to get the final four outs, struck out three more.
This is as smooth as Game 1 could’ve gone from Cleveland’s perspective. Now the Yankees get to deal with the hottest pitcher in baseball. Suddenly, they might begin feeling like their backs are up against the wall. But on Thursday, Terry Francona and his ballclub needed Bauer to keep surging.
And surge he did.