CLEVELAND — On the 25th anniversary of Jacobs/Progressive Field there was plenty of reason to party Thursday night — beginning with the guest of honor, right-hander Trevor Bauer.
Bauer was dominant for the second time in two starts this year, tossing seven shutout innings without allowing a hit, as the Indians opened a four-game series against Toronto with a 4-1 victory.
Because of a high pitch count (117), thanks to six walks and a hit batter, Bauer was deprived of the opportunity to make history with his first no-hitter. And closer Brad Hand allowed a run on three hits in the ninth inning to prevent the Indians from completing the 15th no-hitter in franchise history and the first since Len Barker’s perfect game at Municipal Stadium in 1981.
“We made the decision right when the (seventh) inning was over,” manager Terry Francona said of removing Bauer. “I didn’t want to take him out and he said he knew it was the right thing. I told him, ‘I hate it,’ and he goes, ‘I hate it, too, but I know it’s the right thing.’ I care too much about him and this organization to hurt somebody. I would have loved to have seen it.”
Bauer said when he left the mound following the seventh inning he figured his night was done.
“116 pitches is a lot for any time of the year, obviously,” he said, shorting himself a pitch. “I just got myself in trouble with a lot of deep counts, a lot of free passes. Yeah, it was the right decision.”
Bauer certainly looked as though he had more left in the tank, striking out the side in the seventh.
“I knew that it was probably time to come out,” Bauer said. “That being said, I think my (velocity) was higher in the last inning probably than all (the other) innings. It definitely didn’t drop off at all, my stuff was sharp. If I had gone back out, I feel like I would have gotten it. But it’s a long season and we’re in the second week of it, so I was fine with it.”
“I don’t doubt that he would have kept pitching and probably not given up a hit the way he was throwing,” Francona said. “I just have an obligation to do the right thing, even when it’s not the funnest thing to do it.”
Bauer, who was a Cy Young candidate before a late-season injury last year, is off to a brilliant start. He’s allowed only a run and one hit while striking out 17 batters over 14 innings.
The closest Toronto got to a hit off Bauer came with two outs in the fifth inning when first baseman Carlos Santana made a diving stop on a grounder down the line from Socrates Brito and recorded the out on his own.
Bauer’s best work came in the third inning when he walked the first batter, hit the second and walked the third to load the bases before retiring three straight — the first two on strikeouts — to quell the threat.
After loading the bases on singles from Jake Bauers and Santana and a walk for Brad Miller to start the fourth inning, the Indians manufactured their first two runs on a fielder’s choice grounder from Greg Allen and a sacrifice fly from Roberto Perez.
They used the same approach to score twice in the seventh after Tyler Naquin led off with a double and moved to third on a throwing error that allowed Eric Stamets to reach on a sacrifice bunt attempt.
Jose Ramirez drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly and Santana drew a walk with the bases loaded to force in the second.
“We had patient at-bats and we had good at-bats,” Francona said.
Bauer became the first pitcher in MLB history to throw five or more innings and allow only one total hit in his first two starts of the season. He is also the fourth pitcher in the modern era to be pulled multiple times with a no-hitter intact after six innings — the other coming against Houston in 2015.
“To be honest, I don’t really care about a no-hitter,” Bauer said. “I care about putting up zeros for the team and winning. I care about coming out to the ballpark, seeing the fans, seeing the people of Cleveland. I care about my teammates and trying to win a World Series. If I throw a no-hitter, that’s great. If not, that’s great, too, as long as we win the game.”
Hand also took the failed no-hit bid in stride.
“It’s cool to get a combined no-hitter, but at the end of the game you want to get the win, that’s the most important thing,” he said. “It’s a little different situation when it’s a team one, so you’re not blowing it for someone else or anything. At the end of the day, you’re trying to get the win.”
It wasn’t all good news for the Indians, who saw Ramirez leave the game in the ninth inning after fouling a ball off his foot in the seventh.
“He hit it off his toes and you could imagine in that weather tonight what that feels like, but he said he’s fine,” Francona said.
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