The Cleveland Indians showed us a lot of their tricks last year, as they went on a surprising World Series run. We saw Corey Kluber. We saw Andrew Miller. We saw that lineup that just always finds a way to wear down the pitcher standing 60 feet away.
In their first postseason game of 2017, though, the Indians showed us a new trick. His name is Trevor Bauer.
Bauer — the man with the 5.27 postseason ERA last year, the man whose playoff history is mostly remembered for his bloody finger — looked like he switched bodies with Kluber as he started Game 1 of the American League Divison Series against the New York Yankees on Thursday night.
He carved them up. Eight strikeouts. Six-and-two-third scoreless innings. Two hits allowed. Neither of them until the sixth. A curveball that was bending just right. This wasn’t bloody Bauer. This was Yankees fans staring at their TVs muttering, “Bloody Bauer!” It ended in a 4-0 Indians win and a 1-0 series lead.
Nobody probably hated that curve more than Yankees star rookie Aaron Judge, who struck out three times against Bauer. When they Yankees swung at it, they couldn’t do much. When they didn’t, Bauer was locating it for a called strike.
And nobody could have enjoyed this more than Indians manager Terry Francona, who was second-guessed by more than a few people for choosing Bauer over Kluber for Game 1. Kluber being their ace and Cy Young candidate. But Bauer had a sneaky good 2017 season — 17 wins, 196 strikeouts in 176 innings — and Francona felt good enough to gamble in Game 1.
Now, the Indians come back with Kluber in Game 2 and the Yankees face the very real possibility of heading home 0-2 without even facing Carlos Carrasco yet.
This wasn’t the Indians’ only new trick, either. Jay Bruce, who was traded to Cleveland near the deadline, was the star on offense. He blasted a two-run homer in the fourth inning, giving the Indians a 3-0 lead that seemed like twice that much, the way Bauer was pitching. Bruce then added a sac fly in the fourth. The Indians’ front office had to chuckle a little bit at that one too. The Yankees had wanted to trade for Bruce in July, but reportedly weren’t willing to pay as much of Bruce’s contract as the Indians were.
The Yankees were able to string together some drama in the eighth. Miller, who is usually the Indians’ ace reliever, walked two Yankees before getting lifted from the game. Judge was coming up with two outs and two on, capable of changing the game with one swing. So Francona went to closer Cody Allen for the four-out save.
The Indians stuck with their strategy, throwing Judge breaking balls that he just couldn’t handle. After a seven-pitch at-bat, Allen got Judge to chase another curve that broke into the dirt. It was his strikeout No. 4 of the night.
And that about summed up Game 1: The Yankees’ new trick wasn’t nearly as good as the Indians’ new trick.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – –