CLEVELAND -- It’s no surprise the Indians have a strong candidate to win the American League Cy Young award this year. It’s just not the guy most would have expected when the season began.
Trevor Bauer -- not two-time and reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber -- is one of the frontrunners to win the award for the league’s top pitcher, producing one of the franchise’s finest performances over 24 starts.
Both right-handers began the season strong, but Bauer has been the only one in Cleveland’s rotation to offer up top-shelf outings on a consistent basis.
“Now he’s taken a step forward, you have to say,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “Earlier in the year you thought, ‘OK, he’s going toe-to-toe with some of the best.’ From the All-Star break on he’s arguably been THE best. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to keep him motivated.
“He’s talked about Cy Youngs before. He’s going to be in the thick of things down the stretch. It’s going to be fun to see. He’s definitely taken that step forward here and worked on a couple pitches that have brought him this success.”
On Monday, Bauer (11-6, 2.25 ERA) became the 11th different pitcher in franchise history to record 200 or more strikeouts in a single season and just the fourth to accomplish as much over 24 starts or fewer -- joining Kluber, Sam McDowell and Bob Feller.
Needing only 156 innings, Bauer is the second-fastest Cleveland pitcher to reach the total behind Kluber (147 innings in 2017).
“Given how last year ended and being pulled out early -- four strikeouts away from it -- that’s something I wanted to accomplish,” said Bauer, who struck out 196 last year in 32 games (31 starts) covering 176 1/3 innings. “So, yeah, that’s a milestone. Next up is 300, maybe not this year, but hopefully next year.”
Bauer, an All-Star for the first time in his career, has certainly built a strong Cy Young case thus far.
He led the AL with 159 2/3 innings pitched through Monday, while ranking second with 206 strikeouts, third in ERA and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (11.6). His 10 double-digit strikeout games is tied with Boston’s Chris Sale for the most in the AL -- second-most in the majors behind Washington’s Max Scherzer.
Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (left calf strain) has begun participating in baseball activities and did some light running at Progressive Field prior to Tuesday’s game, with manager Terry Francona saying he would accompany the team on its upcoming road trip.
Calf injuries have limited Chisenhall to 29 games, with the most recent issue sidelining him since July 3, but there is still the chance he will return before the regular season is complete.
“Ya know what, I don’t know, but it’d be nice to have him back,” Francona said. “It gives you another option and we wouldn’t have to play him every day because we have other guys. But it sure would be nice to have him back.”
Chisenhall, who will become a free agent at the end of the season, has spent time on the disabled list in each of the past three years, playing only 82 games in 2017.
Yan Gomes returned to the lineup after missing three games with right hamstring tendinitis.
Gomes’ injury gave Roberto Perez an opportunity to play on a regular basis for the first time all season.
“I thought ’Berto did a terrific job,” Francona said of Perez, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI double in Monday’s 10-0 win over the Twins. “I think it was good for Bert to know he was going to play three, four, parts of five games in a row. So, sometimes when things don’t go perfect, it can help you in other ways. At least that’s the idea.”
It was supposed to be a platoon situation this season, but Gomes, an all-star (reserve) for the first time in his career, has taken over as the regular catcher.
Getting limited playing time and at-bats, Perez has struggled mightily at the plate, batting .162 with a homer and eight RBIs in 45 games.
“I know both of them want to be everyday guys. And I understand that and I respect that,” Francona said. “But, as an organizational thing goes -- how many teams go through a year where a catcher doesn’t get nicked up? It doesn’t happen very often. So, to have somebody back there where the game doesn’t get altered, regardless of who’s pitching, yeah, that’s helpful. And we know that.”
“I would love to play every day, but I understand,” Perez said. “I’ve got to keep working at it and try to get better every day. Whenever I get a chance to play, I want to get the most out of it.”
The Indians entered Tuesday having scored 300 runs at Progressive Field (5.79 per game), which accounted for the most in the majors at home. ... Jose Ramirez had driven in a big league-high 31 runs in the first inning through Monday. The total was 12 more than anyone in the AL. ... Wednesday, 7:10, STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Clevinger (7-7, 3.48) vs. Odorizzi (4-7, 4.60).