Better make that the latest version of normal, because in baseball it’s hard to know what’s waiting around the next corner.
Whatever version was in play on Wednesday, the Indians were back to winning games, hitting home runs and watching Trevor Bauer throw a ton of pitches on the way to a 5-3 win over Kansas City.
The Indians, who ended this homestand with a 5-1 record, have won 10 of their last 13 games and 15 of their last 21. They are 16-7 in June and have hit 43 homers in the month.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s Tampa Bay-Minnesota matchup, the Indians (44-36) were eight games behind the Twins in the AL Central and 1.5 games behind the Rays for the first AL Wild Card. Cleveland will enter Thursday in the second wild card position.
Bauer, coming off his shortest start of the season, pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits. He struck out 12, walked one and threw 127 pitches, matching a career high that he set in 2018.
In his last start, Bauer lasted just four innings in a no-decision against the Tigers. He allowed 10 hits and five earned runs.
He was a different pitcher on Wednesday.
Bauer (5-6, 3.55) retired 14 of the first 15 Royals to come to the plate. Cam Gallagher was the only Kansas City player to reach base in that stretch when Bauer hit him in the back with a pitch with one out in the third.
Bauer started the fifth by retiring Jorge Soler on a grounder to short and struck out Lucas Duda on his 80th pitch of the game. Bauer lost the no-hitter when Humberto Arteaga, the next batter, sent a 97 mph fastball past a diving Bobby Bradley at first base for a single.
Gallagher followed with a single to right as Arteaga went to second. Billy Hamilton hit a bloop double that fell just inside the left field foul line. Arteaga scored and Gallagher went to third to cut the Tribe’s lead to 4-1. The inning ended when Whit Merrifield bounced back to the mound.
Bauer’s 127 pitches raised his per-game average to an MLB-leading 112 pitches. He has thrown over 110 pitches in 12 of his 18 starts.
The Indians went to work against starter Jakob Junis (5-7, 5.23) early. Francisco Lindor opened the game with a single, stole second, took third on a bloop single by Carlos Santana and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jason Kipnis for a 1-0 lead. The sacrifice fly gave Kipnis 15 RBI in the last 11 games.
Lindor struck again in the third with a leadoff double. Mercado singled to right for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, the Indians took a more heavy-handed approach to Junis. Jake Bauers, back in the lineup after missing two games with a sprained left ankle, homered just inside the right field foul pole to open the inning. Bauers’ 10th homer ended an 0-for-15 skid and gave the Tribe a 3-0 lead.
Junis struck out the next two batters, but couldn’t get past No. 9 hitter Tyler Naquin. The Tribe right fielder worked the count full before driving a homer deep into the right field seats for a 4-0 lead. It was Naquin’s sixth homer and second in as many days.
Lindor followed Naquin with a single to give him hits in his first three at-bats. It was Lindor’s fourth three-hit game of the season, and first since June 4.
The Indians made it 5-1 in the eighth on a pinch-hit single by Jordan Luplow.
The insurance run loomed large as the Royals tried to duplicate their ninth-inning rally from Tuesday night. Nick Wittgren, with Hand unavailable after pitching five times in six days, allowed a homer to Duda and an RBI single to pinch-hitter Alex Gordon to make it 5-3. Wittgren struck out Hamilton and Merrifield to end it.
The Indians are off Thursday before starting an eight-game trip to Baltimore, Kansas City and Cincinnati that will take them into the All-Star break. They open a three-game series against the Orioles on Friday night at Camden Yards with RHP Mike Clevinger (1-1, 2.70) expected to come off the injured list and make his fourth start of the season.