Trevor Bauer stood near the hill, breathing slowly, rocking his head and taking two steps to take his position on the rubber.
It was the middle of the seventh inning, and Bauer was nine outs away from kicking off his first no-hitter career in an impressive and forceful way – at Coors Field, a hellish landscape for opposing pitchers, and at his first start since winning the National League Cy Young Award, signed with the reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers and receiving a record contract.
Bauer’s first field of play on Friday, seventh place, a 90 mph fastball, was placed on the left field for a base he hit Trevor story. His third pitch, a 75 mph ankle turn, was recorded in the Colorado Rockies bullpen in the center right field. His 11th pitch, an 84 mph cutter too Ryan McMahonsailed over the scoreboard in the right field.
Bauer had gone from inviolable to unrecognizable in an instant, a reminder of the oddities that maintain a ballpark over 5,000 feet above sea level.
On Thursday a Cody Bellinger Homer with two runs was then rated single with one run Justin Turner crossed paths with him on the bases. On Friday, a fluffy gray cat leaked near the third base dugout and settled in midfield for a break. And on both nights, the mighty Dodgers collected a whopping 31 hits – none of which resulted in home runs. Strange.
“Weird? Come on, media, you should love this – we don’t just rely on the home run ball,” Turner said after one 11-6 win. “How many times have we heard this in the past?”
There’s not much that can be gained from 1.2% of a season, but the first two games of 2021 – a win and a loss – confirmed two obvious points about a Dodgers team that could threaten single too break season wins record.
1. The offense could be one of the greatest that has ever happened. Corey Seager (5v8) remained imprisoned during the 2020 regular season, the subsequent playoffs, the spring training that turned into the new year, and the real games that followed. But Mookie Betts, Max Muncy and Will Smith are already in sync, Bellinger looks comfortable with a slightly open stance and the 23-year-old second baseman Gavin Luxwho has largely simplified his swing by cutting out the excess hand gesture in his setup seems ready to break out.
2. Adding Bauer to this rotation is unfair.
During the first six innings of his debut in 2021, Bauer allowed a baserunner, recorded nine strikeouts, and appeared ready to join Hideo Nomo as the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Coors Field. He commanded his slider and cutter, two pitches that made up 12 of his 15 swings and failures, and They stared at the Rockies’ clubs as they swung through them.
It was the third time Bauer took a no-hitter in the seventh, but also the third time he couldn’t finish it.
“I don’t really care,” he said. “When it happens, it happens. It’s not something that is under the control of the thrower. If you don’t hit 27 players, balls are put into play and that is luck, whether they hit people or the defense is a great one Game makes. “
“Tonight I had a lot of great defensive games behind me. I could very easily have given up goals before the seventh. I consider it lucky and try to focus on things that I can control, which is my physical preparation, mental preparation, that Stuff that gets out of my hand, my decisions on the hill and where the ball lands on the plate. Those are really the only five things I can control. “
Most of the questions related to Bauer’s surprise signing by the Dodgers this off-season centered on social media history and overall reputation, but there were also questions about his pitching.
Before last year’s dominant season with the Cincinnati Reds – at least partially influenced by a regionalized schedule in which he was constantly confronted with inferior lineups – Bauer had achieved an ERA of 3.99 from 2014 to 2019 with an average of 181 innings. He was a reliable, above-average starter, but not necessarily the rotary anchor type that would have $ 85 million over a two year period.
Bauer disproved that thought in spring training by taking note of the injuries he had dealt with in 2019 and stating that his numbers compare favorably with those Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg as he changed his approach for the second half of the 2017 season. (For the record: Bauer’s numbers are very similar to Strasbourg’s during this stretch, although Bauer has significantly more innings, but Cole’s are noticeably better.)
“If you actually look at it,” said Bauer in early March, “I was pretty elitist.”
His first six innings of 2021 seemed to confirm some of that.
When he saw it fall apart in the seventh – possibly a by-product of Bauer who spent much of the last half of the inning running the bases in the air of Colorado – not much changed.
“This is the first time I’ve actually gotten to see him in a regular season game and it was really fun to see,” said Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager. “He was in full control.”