Bauer, with the July 31 trade deadline approaching, struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings as the Indians completed a four-game sweep of the Tigers with a 6-3 win at Progressive Field.
The Tribe (55-40) remained four games behind the Twins in the American League Central Division, but passed both Oakland and Tampa Bay to move into the first AL Wild Card spot after 95 games.
It was Bauer’s sixth game with 10 or more strikeouts and the 25th of his career with the Indians.
The Indians have won five straight, nine of their last 11 and 11 straight against the Tigers. They are back in the race in the AL Central and the wild card, so why trade Bauer?It’s hasn’t happened yet, but the $20 million he could earn in arbitration in 2020, which just so happens to be his walk year, could have something to do with it.
“He fought through some early frustrations, and then like Trevor does, he stays out there a long time into the seventh,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “His last pitch, it might be a high pitch count, is always every bit as good as the first pitch.”
As of now Bauer (9-7, 3.67) still belongs to the Indians and they have no complaints. He allowed three runs on five hits to improve to 5-1 over his last seven starts. Bauer threw 120 pitches, 80 (67 percent) for strikes. But they would have gone for naught if not for the resurgent Jose Ramirez.
Ramirez hit a two-run homer off lefty Matthew Boyd (6-8, 4.13) in the sixth with the score tied, 3-3. The homer extended Ramirez’s hitting streak to 10 games. The Tribe’s third baseman is hitting .352 (25-for-71) with four homers and 14 RBI since June 21.
“He’s a good player and now he’s starting to get back into feeling good about himself,” Francona said of Ramirez. “He got a fastball and took a great swing. He’s starting to feel it more and more. You can tell he’s enjoying himself, not pressing and is feeling more confident.”
When Francona puts together a lineup, he does so with the idea of beating the opposition’s starting pitcher.
That’s what he did Thursday night against Boyd. His first six hitters, including switch-hitters, all hit from the right side of the plate. It left the bottom of the lineup, populated by three left-handed hitters, vulnerable, but Francona was willing to live with that.
The big picture view of Francona’s lineup was a good one. Carlos Santana doubled and Jordan Luplow homered for a 2-0 lead in the first. Santana was batting third and Luplow fourth. The homer was Luplow’s second off Boyd and eighth overall this season.
“That’s a tough guy with really good stuff, especially his breaking ball,” Francona said of Boyd. “He got us a few times — but they made him work. I think we’re a little deeper than we were early, with Oscar (Mercado) hitting second, it backs guys up a bit. Jose is starting to swing it, and Roberto has been a big presence. It’s gotten us deeper. We’ll have to win with contributions all over the place.”
The lead slipped quickly through Bauer’s fingers. Niko Goodrum hit a two-out homer in the second and Harold Castro hit a two-out, two-run homer in the third. They were the 21st and 22nd homers Bauer has allowed this season. Last year he allowed nine.
Then the bottom of the lineup came through against Boyd in the fifth.
Jason Kipnis, 1-for-13 against Boyd coming into that at-bat, singled on a 3-1 pitch with one out. Jake Bauers, hitless in his previous 10 at-bats against Boyd, singled to right and took second when Nick Castellanos’ throw to third bounced away from Gordon Beckham for an error. Tyler Naquin, with one hit in his previous six at-bats against Boyd, hit a sacrifice fly to left to tie the score at 3.
Kipnis, Bauers and Naquin hit left-handed. Boyd’s left-right splits entering the game were just about even. Left-handers were hitting .240 (18-for-75) with three homers against him. Right-handers were hitting .242 (88-for-363) with 16 homers against him.
When the Tribe’s lineup turned over in the sixth, Boyd ran into Ramirez and more trouble.
Luplow singled with two out and Ramirez turned a 93 mph 1-1 fastball pitch into a two-run homer over the left field wall for a 5-3 lead. It was the 21st homer Boyd has allowed this season.
“Against lefties, he’s been a force for us,” Francona said of Luplow. “He’s a big presence for us against them.”
The Tigers, with the worst record in the big leagues, have lost four straight and 11 of their last 13. They are 1-12 against the Indians this season and 7-32 since Sept. 1, 2017.
The Royals visit Progressive Field for a three-game series starting Friday night. Right-hander Shane Bieber (8-3, 3.54) will start for the Tribe, while the Royals will go with lefty Mike Montgomery (1-2, 5.67). SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game at 7:10 p.m.
Bieber, making his second start since being named MVP of the All-Star Game, is 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA in two starts against the Royals this year. The Royals just acquired Montgomery from the Cubs in a trade for catcher Martin Maldonado.
Montgomery, making his first start of the season, retired Michael Martinez to earn the save for the Cubs against the Indians in Game 7 of the World Series in 2016.