CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – They say that when you have a horse, ride it.
For Trevor Bauer, a workhorse in his own right, he has a horse named Uncle Charlie.
The 26-year old right-hander admits that his curveball is his best pitch, and with the statistics on his side, he has increased its usage with reason.
Bauer’s curveball became his third-most used in 2016 at 19.5 percent, a sharp jump from 11.6 percent in 2015 when he also utilized a slider. That number has crept higher to start 2017, entering Tuesday night at 22.9 percent, just shy of his two-seam fastball at 23.2 percent.
“I just try to leverage it and use it as much as possible,” he said. Bauer has, and continued to do that.
In Tuesday’s career-high 14 strikeout outing, the deuce was Bauer’s primary pitch, thrown 46 times out of 113 offerings. The results were positive with 10 swinging strikes, 7 of them for strike-three. Home plate umpire Nic Lentz called 10 more curves for strikes, with just one put in play, a 4th inning single form Adam Rosales.
Catcher Roberto Perez said that he and the pitcher met to discuss their approach, deciding to continue to elevate the usage of curveballs.
“Especially early in the year, guys started swinging at the first-pitch fastball off Trevor Bauer,” Perez said. “Why not throw it first pitch? Because we were throwing it 0-2 every time, and guys were laying off. And if you throw it for a strike, there’s a time to strike out a guy, but not if he’s going to throw it for a strike. If he’s going to bounce it. So, you put a little bit of pressure on a hitter.”
The other 25 breaking balls may have wound out below the strike zone, but apparently helped to set up Bauer’s fastball. He retired the other seven Athletics with his triad of fastballs.
“We were just trying fastball after fastball,” Perez added. “He was up to 97 today. He was riding it up, up in the zone. And then that breaking ball off the fastball. They’re a very aggressive team. It was working tonight.”
The battery really did not ramp up the breaking ball until the 4th inning, which was the most tumultuous for the pair.
Designated Hitter Ryon Healy capped Bauer’s frustration with a broken-bat double, which just so happened to come on the first pitch. Matt Joyce went on to knock in the third A’s run on a sacrifice fly before a strikeout and a potentially game-saving outfield assist at home from Michael Brantley.
From there, Bauer retired 9-of-10 A’s hitters, all by way of the strikeout before exiting in the top of the 8th. The oft-maligned righty said it was all a part of the plan.
“I mean, shoot, half the balls they put in play tonight were hit, so I decided after the fourth I just wasn’t going to let them hit the ball anymore because it was always a hit,” he said.