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Old 10-06-2017, 05:32 AM
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Default Indians 4 Yankees 0 (ALDS Game 1)
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Manager Terry Francona's decision to open the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees with Trevor Bauer on the mound made twisted sense if you still bought into the concept of Bauer as oddity's apprentice.

It was quite an unconventional choice, after all.

No eyebrows were quirked and no mouths fell open in the Cleveland Indians' clubhouse, however. Bauer -- the nominal third starter on the best pitching staff in the major leagues, a man known for gashing his finger before last season's playoffs on a propeller in his own private Game of Drones -- got the nod over Tribe ace and Cy Young winner presumptive Corey Kluber.

How does a rotation of Bauer, No. 3 on the staff in Game 1, Kluber, No. 1 in Game 2, and Carlos Carrasco, No. 2 in Game 3 register on the prioritizing scale?

It worked fine

The Tribe's 4-0 victory at Progressive Field makes Francona look like the lord high executioner of the strategic master stroke is how.

If a great team is going down at all, it is more likely to be in a five-game series and not one of seven games. This made the pitching set-up even riskier.

Nothing is certain, but teams that win the opener of a five-game series win the series about 70 percent of the time.

Bauer is now 3-0 against the Yankees this season. He came into the game with an ERA (1.38) requiring magnification to see. It helped that he was facing Sonny Gray, who is not the Yankees' ace either.

Effective eccentricity

This is a Bauer whose professionalism has stifled all the winks, nudges and weird science snarkiness. He marches to the occasional thump of a different drum, true, but not to the clatter of the whole percussion section or the blare of the entire orchestra.

"Just because somebody does something that's a little bit unconventional and not the way everybody else does it doesn't make it wrong," said Kluber, striking a chord that could serve as useful advice inside and outside the lines.

This Bauer is not last year's Bauer, nor even the Bauer of the midseason when he was 7-8. He won eight straight decisions and 17 overall.

He made the curve his go-to pitch in crisis, which meant paring down a veritable haberdashery of pitches involving all manner of seams, cutters and darts. Only Dead Man's Curve has a more dangerous bend than his yakker.

Said New York manager Joe Girardi, "His curveball was as good as we've seen it."

Said Francona, "When the moment arose, Trevor embraced it. He attacked it. I thought his poise was tremendous. He pitched inside to keep those big guys from extending. And he had a great curveball. I thought he pitched his heart out tonight."

Yankee killer

Jason Kipnis' diving, backhanded catch in center field - another positional shift made by Francona -- on Chase Headley's gapper in the third inning preserved Bauer's hitless streak until a double by Aaron Hicks in the sixth.

Bauer's 5 1/3 no-hit innings broke an Indians' postseason record held jointly by Bob Feller in the 1948 World Series and Early Wynn in the 1954 Series

Bauer's curve got baby Bomber Aaron Judge to strike out three times, although he reached first on the middle one, a wild pitch outside and in the dirt.

"Bauer Outage" signs bobbed in the Progressive Filed stands, but the powerball was just the complement to his curve.

On the third K of Judge, with the count 2-0 in the powerful rookie's favor, Bauer threw a belt-high, 95 mph fastball over the heart of the plate, Judge froze, taking the strike, and eventually the hook gaveled him to the dugout.

"I can remember a lot of games when I had better stuff. The best stuff I ever had was last year in Chicago. I gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings," said Bauer, citing the truth as he sees it, conforming to metrics as he calibrates them.

Friday the Yankees face Kluber, the Most Valuable Player on a team that looks like the best in baseball with no apparent weaknesses and no recalcitrant non-conformists who don't fit in.

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