CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona surprised plenty of people in the baseball world when he made the decision to start Trevor Bauer against the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Division Series over likely AL Cy Young Award candidate Corey Kluber.
But Bauer put those questions to rest early, and coupled with timely hitting from outfielder Jay Bruce, the Indians earned a 4-0 victory over the Yankees in front of a sold-out crowd at Progressive Field Thursday night and took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
“I had good stuff,” Bauer said. “I located well. Mostly, my curveball was good from the get-go. I've done a lot of work in the offseason on that pitch. I worked with guys, the drive line on it and make sure it's a plus pitch for me, and it really worked well from the outset tonight. So I think that was a huge difference-maker.”
Bauer set a new single-game personal playoff best with eight strikeouts, and allowed just two hits and one walk over 6.2 innings of work on the way to his first playoff win. Bauer registered three of his strikeouts against Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who belted 52 home runs during the regular season.
Despite hearing questions about his Game 1 start, Bauer repaid Francona’s faith early.
After getting left fielder Brett Gardner to pop out to shortstop Francisco Lindor, Bauer struck out Judge looking and catcher Gary Sanchez swinging to set down the Yankees, 1-2-3, in the top of the first inning.
Judge and Sanchez combined to hit 85 home runs during the regular season. Judge blasted a Major League Baseball rookie record 52 home runs in 155 games, and Sanchez set a Yankees benchmark for catches with 33 round-trippers.
In the top of the fourth inning, Bauer struck out Judge swinging, but the ball sailed to the backstop, which allowed the slugger to advance safely to first base. However, Bauer got Sanchez to roll over on a first-pitch curve ball, and third baseman Giovanny Urshela responded by initiating a 5-4-3 double play.
Then, Bauer froze shortstop Didi Gregorius with a 94-mile-per-hour fastball on the inside corner for a called third strike and the final out of the inning. Bauer went after Gregorius with five straight fastballs, and all were in the mid-90s.
“It's just baseball,” Bauer said. “Whenever I pitch, the process is the same. You come up with a game plan, you talk about it, you get on the same page with everybody, you go out there, you try to execute it, and then, the results are going to be what they are, and tonight was a good night for us.”
Bauer gave up his first hit in the top of the sixth inning, a one-out double to Aaron Hicks, he induced a groundout to first base, and then, struck out Judge on a called third strike for the second time in the game.
Bauer’s 5.1 innings of no-hit baseball was the longest no-hit bid ever by an Indians pitcher in postseason play.
“The mindset was to go out there like a closer in the first inning and put up a scoreless inning at all costs,” Bauer said. “Then, if I was still in the game, do it again in the second inning and the third and on until I was taken out of the game. So no-hitter, ten hitter, or whatever, that was the mindset. I never really strayed from that.”