Bauer, Indians blank Yankees in ALDS opener
CLEVELAND — Nobody is questioning Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona’s decision now, except perhaps the New York Yankees.
Francona’s decision to start Trevor Bauer over ace Corey Kluber in Game 1 of the American League Division Series couldn’t have turned out better.
Bauer pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and combined with two relievers on a three-hitter, and Jay Bruce had a home run and three RBIs as the Indians beat the Yankees 4-0 on Thursday night at Progressive Field.
Indians pitchers led the majors with 19 shutouts this season, and they tossed one in their first postseason game.
“You do what you think is right,” Francona said of his decision to start Bauer. “It doesn’t always turn out the way you want to, but I was completely comfortable with our decision.”
Bauer (1-0) did not give up a hit until Aaron Hicks doubled with one out in the sixth inning. The only other hit against Bauer was a single by Starlin Castro with two outs in the seventh.
Bauer threw 98 pitches, striking out eight with one walk.
“He pitched his heart out,” Francona said.
“His curveball was really good, as good as we’ve seen it,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said.
Bauer was 17-9 during the regular season. In three starts vs. the Yankees this year, he is 3-0 with a 0.92 ERA. In 19 2/3 innings against New York, he has allowed two runs and 13 hits with 19 strikeouts.
“They’ve got a very dangerous lineup, but Roberto (Perez, Indians catcher) called a good game, and I executed well,” Bauer said. “I had good stuff, located well and had a good curve from the get-go.”
Andrew Miller followed Bauer to the mound and struck out three of the five batters he faced, but the left-hander walked two in the eighth inning.
Closer Cody Allen relieved Miller with runners at first and second and two outs, and he struck out Aaron Judge to end the inning.
Allen retired the side in the ninth to pick up the save.
Judge, who led the American League with 52 home runs, was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
“I thought he had some good swings. He’ll be back tomorrow,” Girardi said.
Cleveland’s three pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.
Yankees starter Sonny Gray (0-1) pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs and three hits with two strikeouts and four walks.
Bauer held the Yankees hitless and scoreless through the first five innings. Only two Yankees reached base in that span — Greg Bird on a four-pitch walk in the second inning and Judge, who struck out but reached first on a wild pitch in the fourth.
The Indians took an early lead when Bruce led off the bottom of the second by bouncing a double off the left field wall. Bruce went to third on a single by Carlos Santana, and Lonnie Chisenhall was hit by a pitch.
Bruce scored when Perez grounded into a double play. Giovanny Urshela flied out to end the inning.
The Indians scored two runs in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion led off with a walk, and Bruce hit a towering fly ball to right field that sailed into the seats for a home run, giving Cleveland a 3-0 lead.
“It’s a good thing he showed up tonight. He drove in most of our runs,” Francona said.
“I got a couple of pitches I was able to handle, and it worked out,” Bruce said.
The Indians added to their lead in the fifth inning, thanks to two wild pitches by reliever Adam Warren. Jose Ramirez singled, went to second and third on wild pitches, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Bruce against reliever Jaime Garcia to make it 4-0.
“I’m aware how much runs are at a premium in the postseason, so I knew how much it meant for us to get that run in,” Bruce said.
Especially now, with Kluber going in Game 2 for the defending American League champs.
“Being up 1-0, and having our ace going in Game 2, I think that bodes well for us,” Bruce said.
NOTES: RHP Corey Kluber was 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this year. In seven career starts against New York, Kluber is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA. ... The Indians have won five of the eight AL Division Series they have been in (1995, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2016). ... Yankees RHP Sonny Gray’s 3 1/3 innings marked the shortest outing of his 12 starts since being acquired by New York from the Oakland A’s at midseason. ... LHP CC Sabathia, who will start Game 2 for the Yankees, was Cleveland’s first-round pick in the 1998 draft and won the 2007 AL Cy Young Award as a member of the Indians. Sabathia was 19-7 that year.