CHICAGO (AP) — Trevor Bauer can fly the Indians to a championship.
Go finger, er, figure.
The eccentric right-hander, who cut his right pinkie while repairing a drone and almost ruined his team’s postseason chances, will start Game 5 on Sunday as Cleveland tries to win its first World Series title since 1948.
Manager Terry Francona had other options like Danny Salazar or rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt, who started the Indians’ AL pennant-clinching win over the Toronto Blue Jays. But he has decided to stick with Bauer, who lost Game 2 but can now make up for his off-field mishap.
“Ryan Merritt did a nice job for us against Toronto, but Trevor Bauer has been a good pitcher for us for four years,” Francona said before Cleveland beat the Chicago Cubs 7-2 Saturday night at Wrigley Field for a 3-1 lead.
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Bauer’s run-in with a propeller on one of the drones he built, threatened to upend Cleveland’s storybook season. The Indians were already missing starters Danny Salazar (forearm tightness) and Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) and Bauer’s odd accident only make things more complicated.
He was scheduled to start Game 2 of the AL Championship against Toronto, but Bauer sustained a cut that required 11 stitches. His start got pushed back one game, but Bauer didn’t make it out of the first inning because his finger ripped open and bled profusely after just four batters.
The Indians were able to win the pennant anyway and Bauer’s hand wasn’t a problem during his first Series start.
Everything else was.
After the Indians won the opener 6-0 behind Corey Kluber, Bauer couldn’t keep the momentum going with a laborious 87-pitch outing that lasted just 3 2/3 innings and had a lot to do with a 5-1 game lasting more than four hours.
Bauer spent the first few innings constantly shaking off catcher Roberto Perez’s signs and wound up allowing two runs and six hits. Those stats aren’t bad, but Cleveland’s hitters couldn’t do anything against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta and the Indians left for Chicago tied 1-1.
It’s been a different story at Wrigley Field, where the Indians have gotten solid starts from Josh Tomlin and Kluber and will now turn to Bauer, who won 12 games during the regular season but is 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in just nine innings in the postseason.
The 25-year-old said his finger is completely healed and he’s approaching his biggest start — and potentially a history-making one for the Indians — like he always does.
“You prepare for the game the same way, and some games you go out there and you have a feel right away, and some games you go out there and you don’t,” he said. “So, for whatever time I’m in the game, I do the same thing. I try to go with what’s working and find a feel for what’s not. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. So it’s very similar to a regular season game in that regard.”
The Indians are never sure what they’ll get from Bauer, who began the season in Cleveland’s bullpen before joining the rotation in late April.
“We expect a Trevor start,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said with a chuckle. “We’re not sure what that means but we expect Trevor to go out there He’s a competitor. Don’t let him fool you. He’s a guy who competes and never makes a moment too big. Whether he has it or not, it isn’t because the situation’s too big.
“It’s just that he tries to find it, he’s a rhythm pitcher and there’s not one guys on the staff they we don’t feel confident is going to give us a chance to win and he’s one of those guys.”