CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona set up the pitching rotation for the 2017 American League Division Series with the thought of getting two games out of staff ace Corey Kluber if necessary, but Kluber is the Game 2 starter.
Seventeen-game winner Trevor Bauer was tabbed by Francona to start Game 1 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field tonight, and that is where all of the right-hander’s focus has been in the lead-up to his second career Game 1 start in the ALDS.
“I'm preparing for Game 1,” Bauer said. “It's not wise to look past anything like that.”
Even before beginning their AL-record 22-game winning streak in mid-August, the Indians saw Bauer emerge as the type of talent who was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft.
In the month of August, Bauer posted a 5-0 record and 2.30 earned run average in seven appearances, including six starts. Over 39.0 innings of work, Bauer allowed 10 earned runs and nine walks against 40 strikeouts.
Bauer earned two wins each over the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the top two teams in the AL East Division, as well as one against the Kansas City Royals.
“You've got some youth in there with big power,” Bauer said of the Yankees. “You've got some veteran guys in there, too that balance everything out, so I think it's very well balanced. They can do a lot of different things offensively, and they're very well balanced.”
What Bauer feels will benefit him most is keeping hitters off-balance with a top-flight curveball, one like he displayed in the second half of the season.
“I started throwing it when I was 10,” Bauer said. “I threw a variation of a curveball when I was like seven or eight, but I started throwing this curveball when I was 10. I was a really big -- I was a big fan of pitching staffs in general growing up, not necessarily teams.
“That's a pitch I've been throwing, I guess now, for like 16 years and always been my go-to pitch. It's the first breaking ball I learned, so that's always been the one I lean on.”
The curveball worked to Bauer’s advantage, as he had a career year in 2017.
Bauer finished the regular season with a 17-9 record and 4.19 ERA in 32 games, including 31 starts. Over 176.1 innings of work. Bauer registered 196 strikeouts against 60 walks allowed.
During the regular season, Bauer was a standout performer at Progressive Field, going 10-4 with a 3.93 ERA and 116 strikeouts against 25 walks allowed in 103.0 innings of work in 17 starts in front of the home fans.
“I think my walk rate was a little bit lower,” Bauer said, “so I was giving out less free bases, less people on base to score, but overall, mentality-wise, I've just basically tried to do the same thing, attack the strike zone, let my stuff play, and punch people out when I have the opportunity to.”
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