Then Bauer lost control of his emotions as he was being removed by manager Terry Francona in a 9-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Bauer allowed five runs in the fifth as the Royals rallied from a two-run deficit. He tossed two baseballs in frustration when Francona went to take him out of the game, firing the first into the netting behind home plate and the second over the center field wall 440 feet from home plate.
An penitent Bauer apologized to Cleveland’s clubhouse after the game and took responsibility for his actions on the field.
“I’m an intense competitor and that fire is what drives me and today it completely consumed me, took over,” Bauer said. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry for how I behaved. I’ll be better about it. It won’t happen again.”
The loss snapped Cleveland’s four-game winning streak and a stretch of six straight victories on the road in Kansas City. The Indians (62-43) fell two games behind Minnesota in the American League Central Division. They lead Oakland by three games for the top AL Wild Card Game position, and are 3.5 and four games up on Tampa Bay and Boston.
Cleveland hitters clubbed three home runs, including a solo shot by Jose Ramirez, his 14th of the season, giving him one homer in each of the four games in the series.
But Bauer loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth after allowing a single to Alex Gordon and a ground-rule double to Hunter Dozier that rookie center fielder Oscar Mercado lost in the sun. Ryan O’Hearn brought home a run with a dribbler in front of the plate, and Nicky Lopez’s base hit up the middle just got past Bauer’s glove for a 7-5 Royals lead.
That’s when Francona went out to remove Bauer and things got heated.
Bauer tossed a ball into the batter’s eye in center field over Mercado’s head and then appeared to make an apologetic gesture toward Francona before the manager pointed him toward Cleveland’s dugout. He later said that his outburst Sunday was not directed at any of his teammates.
“I want to be clear that my frustrations were with myself and my inability to stop the situation and keep my team in the game,” he said. “It was not directed at any of my teammates, even though I know that it came off that way. I love going to battle with my guys every day and today I feel like I really let them down, both personally and professionally.”
Francona said Bauer’s frustration overwhelmed him on a day when early indications were that he had good stuff while warming up in the bullpen.
“So many things went wrong in that inning, we lose a ball in the sun, we get a tapper back to (Bauer), there’s a walk or two mixed in with some hits and a couple balls that weren’t hit hard," Francona said. “It seemed like everything that could happen, did.”
Mercado’s RBI sacrifice fly in the fourth put the Indians ahead 4-3. It was Mercado’s 31st run driven in and 14th in his last 14 games. Greg Allen led off the inning with a base hit to left and went to third when Whit Merrifield couldn’t handle a hard grounder to second by Mike Freeman.
Jordan Luplow added to the lead with a solo home run in the fifth, his 11th blast and 10th against left-handed pitching.
Cleveland wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as Francisco Lindor and Mercado smacked singles to left off Royals starter Danny Duffy in the first. Carlos Santana, playing in his first game since injuring his shoulder on a headfirst slide Thursday, followed by crushing a 1-0 pitch into the Tribe bullpen for a 3-0 Indians lead.
Santana’s team-leading 22nd home run was his second of the year on the road in Kansas City and the 18th of his career at Kauffman Stadium.
“Sometimes it’s hard for guys when they’re not in the lineup like that,” Francona said. “But sometimes when they’re nicked up, to give them a couple days can help in the long run.”
The Royals answered with a run in the bottom of the first after a leadoff double by Merrifield and an RBI single by Dozier. They tied the score at 3-3 in the third on an RBI groundout by O’Hearn that brought home Gordon, and a throwing error by Jake Bauers on the same play that allowed Dozier to score from second base.
The Indians are off Monday before opening a nine-game homestand with three against Houston beginning Tuesday. Right-hander Shane Bieber (10-3, 3.44) gets the start for the Tribe while the Astros counter with righty Justin Verlander (13-4, 2.86).
Bieber is coming off a complete-game shutout last week in Toronto in which he gave up just one hit and struck out nine batters. He will make his second career start against the Astros after taking a no-decision on April 27 in Houston. Verlander is 20-24 in 52 career starts against Cleveland, including a 9-16 mark at Progressive Field. He has not won a game in Cleveland since 2013.