The Indians' Trevor Bauer delivers a pitch in the first inning Wednesday, July 25, 2018, at Progressive Field. Bauer held the Pirates to two hits while striking out 10 in seven innings to lead the Indians to a 4-0 win.
CLEVELAND — Trevor Bauer did what Corey Kluber and Shane Bieber couldn’t. He cooled off the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Another sparkling outing from the All-Star right-hander helped the Indians to a 4-0 victory at Progressive Field on Wednesday afternoon that prevented the Pirates from completing a three-game sweep and stopped their National League-high winning streak at 11 games.
Bauer allowed only two hits and struck out 10 over seven sparkling innings, as Cleveland avoided matching its longest losing skid (four games) of the season.
“It was big for us today to stop our skid,” Bauer said. “We lost three in a row. We haven’t played very well in a couple of those games. When you face a team that’s hot like that, I enjoy that challenge. I enjoy meeting it head on. They’re rolling and I wanted to see who’s going to win. So challenge them, force them to hit my stuff and lay it all out there on the line. See who has the bigger set of (stones) for the day.”
That was clearly Bauer.
He plunked the second batter of the game — Starling Marte — but didn’t allow a hit until Marte’s replacement, Adam Frazier, started the fourth inning with a double. Bauer didn’t allow another until a leadoff single in the eighth.
“I think this is his best start yet,” said first baseman Yonder Alonso, who hit a two-run home run to provide insurance in the eighth inning. “We have a hot team here obviously that we have to play and you could tell from the beginning of the game, he had full control. He was making his pitches. He was getting big outs. At first, his fastball wasn’t really all there, but then later on you could tell he had it again. He had his curveball, he had his slider. It was special. I think it was his best game yet.”
Bauer encountered only one jam, walking two of the first three hitters he faced in the seventh, before retiring the next two.
“Just me being stupid and throwing heaters,” he said. “Should never do that. Threw too many heaters in a row. As soon as I started throwing breaking balls again, I was good. That’s what makes me good.
“The nice thing about throwing everything is hitters can’t hit everything. You get a really good report on them watching them two games in a row. I threw the stuff they hadn’t seen yet.”
Bauer’s 10 strikeouts brought his total to 192 over 147 1/3 innings in 22 starts, the second most in the American League. He has recorded double-digit strikeout totals in nine games this season, matching Boston’s Chris Sale for the most in the AL and the second most in the majors behind Washington’s Max Scherzer (10).
Bauer has struck out at least seven in 12 consecutive outings, matching Sam McDowell (1965-66) for the second-longest streak in franchise history behind reigning Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber’s 14 last year.
“I think he’s come so far,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s not like it’s a big secret. He made the All-Star team and things like that, but he has really turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the game.”
“Hey, man, if he’s not one of the top guys in the game right now in the American League, you’re not being fair to him,” Alonso said. “He’s done an excellent job, the way he prepares himself for four days, even that fifth day. He’s a pro and he understands what he’s doing. Keep ’em coming.”
Cleveland’s offense continued to scuffle since opening the second half with 25 runs in its first two games.
The Indians, who had only eight runs in the interleague series, scored just two over the first eight innings — both on Edwin Encarnacion’s single in the third off Pirates starter James Tallion.
With Bauer gone, Cleveland turned to its new bullpen duo of Adam Cimber and Brad Hand to finish off Pittsburgh.
Cimber allowed a single to the first batter he faced to put runners on first and second in the eighth inning, but he got a double-play ball before departing for Hand, who got the final out on a strikeout.
Hand struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to earn his first AL save and 25th of the season.
“They’re good,” Bauer said of the duo. “That’s what we got them to do, you know? Come in and shut the game down. That’s exactly what they did. It’s great to see. Happy that they were able to finish it off because we need to win ballgames.”
“Definitely good to get a win today,” Hand said. “Adam did a great job, Trevor did a great job and, yeah, it was a fun day.”
Bauer is 3-0 with a major league-leading 0.33 ERA (one earned run over 27 2/3 innings) in four interleague starts this season.
The Indians improved to 9-1 when trying to avoid a sweep. They’ve outscored opponents 80-23 in the 10 games.