Trevor Bauer cited “random variation” as the reason for his success against the Astros three weeks ago.
His sustained level of dominance disproves this notion.
The right-hander moved to 7-0 with a 2.89 ERA in seven starts vs. Houston after another quality outing and 5-3 victory on Friday evening at Minute Maid Park. Bauer is the first pitcher to ever accomplish such a feat while the bullpen has yet to blow a lead after the sixth inning this season.
Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall used the hitter-friendly conditions of the stadium to their advantage as they each registered a home run in the winning effort.
Bauer hangs on despite two home runs
An inauspicious beginning quickly found itself in the rearview mirror as Bauer retired 10 consecutive batters in the middle portion of his outing. Josh Reddick and Carlos Correa homered directly before and after the streak.
“They had a really good lineup and it’s balanced,” said manager Terry Francona to reporters. “He got us to a point in the game where you’re not asking the bullpen to do more than they’re supposed to.”
Bauer showcased his two-seam fastball up in the zone (see below) to put away a multitude of hitters and finish with a final line of 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R/ER, 1 BB, 9 K (102 pitches, 64 strikes, 62.7%, three groundouts, two flyouts).
Three of Bauer’s six swinging strikes came on the two-seam fastball while opposing hitters put three balls in play with an average exit velocity of 85.2-mph.
Random variation made its way back to Bauer’s interview after the contest…
“Yeah, that’s exactly what it is,” Bauer said. “It will even out over the course of a career.”
Facing a 2-0 deficit, Encarnacion homered to left field to plate Carlos Santana (walk) and even the score in the fourth inning.
“That was huge,” said Francona. “We haven’t been scoring runs in bunches. And then to get it back in one swing, you feel like, okay, we’re even. It’s a heck of a lot better place to be.”
Kipnis furthered the come-from-behind rally with a solo shot to right-center, his third of the year. Francisco Lindor doubled in the inning before Brian McCann and Charlie Morton teamed together to throw him out at home on a wild pitch.
“The plate ended up being blocked by the pitcher,” Francona said. “[Lindor] couldn’t get to the plate. I get it, everybody’s going one direction at the same time. He’s fine.”
Rounding out the home run barrage was Chisenhall with his fourth blast of the campaign in the sixth.
“They give me the opportunity to swing the bat,” said Chisenhall of the hitters in front of him. “My aggression is one of my strengths.”
Insurance for a shutdown bullpen performance
A clean 3.1 innings of scoreless relief from the unit comprised of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen kept a slim lead intact for the duration of the ballgame.
Sandwiched between the trio’s work was a Jose Ramirez triple and Chisenhall sac fly in the eighth to move the tally to 5-3 in favor of the road nine.
Central Division update
The Twins (21-17) erased a three-run deficit and beat the Royals (17-24) by a score of 4-3 in extra-innings. Detroit (20-20) lost to the red-hot Rangers, a team that has now won 10 in a row.
The two teams will reconvene on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. from Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
RHP Mike Clevinger (1-1, 2.61) is scheduled for his third start after striking out the only hitter he faced in a brief relief appearance on Tuesday.
RHP Mike Fiers (1-1, 5.75) will toe the rubber in search of his second victory after allowing four runs in his last start to elevate his ERA in May to 6.48.