CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Indians entered the 2016 season with one of baseball’s most talented starting rotations, but several injuries to Tribe hurlers have forced Cleveland to go in a different direction in the upcoming postseason than many anticipated.
Following Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, manager Terry Francona named Trevor Bauer the team’s Game 1 starter for the impending American League Division Series vs. the Boston Red Sox.
The club’s ace, Corey Kluber, is expected to take the ball for the Indians in Game 2. Right-hander Josh Tomlin will start Game 3.
Kluber became the third Cleveland hurler to fall victim to the injury bug in the final month, suffering a quad strain in his final start of the regular season. With Carlos Carrasco (wrist fracture) and Danny Salazar (forearm strain) also out with injury, Bauer will be forced to step up in the pressure-packed opening game of the first-round playoff series.
The 25-year-old righty allowed three runs over six innings in his final start of the regular season, walking two and striking out nine on Saturday afternoon in Kansas City. Bauer finished the 2016 campaign with 12-8 record and 4.26 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 190 innings for Cleveland.
The Indians, manager Terry Francona explained to the media on Saturday night, felt Bauer would be better prepared to handle a potential Game 4 start on short rest than Kluber, who is still recovering from the quad injury.
Bauer’s campaign has been filled with plenty of peaks and valleys. After opening the season in the bullpen, the righty re-established himself as a starter, posting a 2.79 ERA in 84 innings from April 30-July 1.
Then, following a rough five-start stretch, Bauer fought back to post six quality outings with a sub-3.00 ERA from Aug 9-Sept 3 before finishing the regular season with a 7.28 ERA over his final five starts.
The opening round of the MLB playoffs is a best-of-five series, but home field between the Indians and Red Sox has yet to be decided.
Cleveland enters Sunday’s slate of games with a half-game lead on Boston for the second-best record in the American League. The Tribe, to host the first two games of the ALDS at Progressive Field, would need to finish a game better than the Red Sox, who hold the tiebreaker over the Indians.
The ALDS is set to begin on Thursday, Oct. 6.