CLEVELAND (AP) — Trevor Bauer never backs down from any challenge or debate. He accepted this call.
Health mattered more than history.
Bauer was pulled by manager Terry Francona after seven hitless innings and 117 pitches, and sat in the dugout watching as Toronto’s Freddy Galvis broke up Cleveland’s bid for a combined no-hitter with a leadoff single in the ninth inning of the Indians’ 4-1 win Thursday night.
Bauer was attempting to throw Cleveland’s first no-hitter in 38 years — on the 25th anniversary of Progressive Field’s opening — but was taken out when his pitch count climbed too high for Francona.
Bauer understood the move.
“It was the right decision,” he said.
Once Bauer was out, Jon Edwards came in and got two outs before closer Brad Hand worked out of a bases-loaded jam. Hand, however, gave up a hard single to center by Galvis. Moments later, Alen Hansen followed with Toronto’s second hit and the Blue Jays scored before Hand struck out two for his third save.
Bauer (1-0) was six outs away from completing his no-hitter, when Francona removed him as a precautionary measure. The right-hander may have been able to go farther — he threw a career-high 127 pitches last season — but on a chilly night and with so much season left, Francona played it cautiously.
“I didn’t want to take him out,” Francona said. “He said he knew it was the right thing. I told him I hate it. He goes, ‘I hate it, too, but I know it’s the right thing.’ I care too much about him and this organization to hurt somebody. I would have loved to have seen it because I don’t doubt that he would have kept pitching and probably not given up a hit the way he was throwing.
“I just have an obligation to do the right thing, even when it’s not the funnest thing to do,” he said.
The enigmatic Bauer, best known for his quirky personality and unorthodox training methods, had only himself to blame for throwing too many pitches earlier in the game against Toronto’s weak lineup.
“I knew it was probably time to come out,” he said. “That being said, I think my velocity was higher in that last inning probably than all innings. My stuff was sharp. If I’d gone back out, I feel like I would have gotten it, but it’s a long season. We’re in the second week of it.”
The odd developments prevented Bauer from ending Cleveland’s no-hit drought, which dates to May 15, 1981, when Len Barker threw a perfect game against the Blue Jays.
Bauer’s performance was anything but pristine. He walked six — including two in the third when he also hit a batter — and even though he struck out eight, was never dominant against a Blue Jays team that has come close to being no-hit several times this season.
On opening day, Detroit’s Jordan Zimmermann was perfect against the Blue Jays until giving up an infield single with two outs in the seventh. Baltimore’s David Hess was pulled with a no-hitter intact after 6 1/3 innings Monday at Toronto.
“Even though Bauer had a no-hitter, he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “But premier pitchers find a way to get it done, and he did.”
Aaron Sanchez (1-1) took the loss.
Before his pitch count got too high, Bauer was backed by some terrific fielding, highlighted by first baseman Carlos Santana’s diving stop to rob Socrates Brito of a possible hit to end the fifth inning. In the sixth, right fielder Tyler Naquin ran down Rowdy Tellez’s sinking liner toward the line.
The Indians have had numerous close calls over the years since Barker’s gem. Despite having several Cy Young winners and All-Stars, none of Cleveland’s pitchers have been able to make history and now Bauer has a near miss.
“I don’t really care about a no-hitter or not,” he said. “I care about putting up zeroes for the team and winning. I care about coming to the ballpark and seeing the fans and the seeing the people of Cleveland. I care about my teammates and trying to win a World Series.
“If I throw a no-hitter that’s great. If not that’s great too as long as we win the game. “
Bauer, who went seven strong innings at Minnesota last week, is the first pitcher in history to start the season with consecutive starts of at least five innings and allow just one hit.
He’s the first pitcher since 1934 to open the season allowing one hit or fewer in back-to-back outings of seven innings.
Blue Jays: 1B Justin Smoak was pulled from the original lineup because of a sore neck.
Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Columbus on Friday. He hopes to return during a road trip next week. The two-time All-Star strained his right calf late in spring training. Kipnis took grounders before Thursday’s game.
The four-game series continues Friday with Blue Jays RHP Trent Thornton facing Indians RHP Shane Bieber. Thornton struck out eight over five innings in his major league debut on March 31 at Detroit. Bieber makes his first start this season. He went 11-5 with a 4.55 ERA as a rookie in 2018.
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