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Cleveland splits series with White Sox as Jake Bauers’s batting average skyrockets

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A great series (except for one unspeakable game) ends in a tie

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Forget that game in Detroit a couple of years ago. In terms of describing Jake Bauers’s career one day — which is hopefully a happy tale — today will be remembered as the day he finally turned it all around. The day that he added two hits in a 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox is the one a grey-haired Mr. Bauers will tell his grandchildren as they gather ‘round the holocampfire or whatever.

After being held to one hit over the first 17 at-bats of the season, Bauers hit two against the White Sox, including a double, his first extra-base hit of the season. His batting average skyrocketed from .059 before the game to .143 after it, putting him among the elite of ... something, I’m sure. He also struck out twice, but that doesn’t fit my narrative so I’m going to ignore it.

This was more than a little tongue-in-cheek, but I’m genuinely happy for Bauers. Long slumps can’t be fun for anyone, and he’s hit the ball hard without results. Today he finally got the results, even if one of them came off a broken bat.

Elsewhere in the Cleveland lineup, José Ramírez broke a couple of bad streaks with his sixth-inning home run off of Lance Lynn.

Not only did he give Cleveland their first lead of the game, but he ended his own personal hitting drought that stretched almost a week. He also reached base two innings later on an error. The eternal chicken-and-egg struggle between whether the swagger or the hits have to come first was answered today. It’s the hits. The swagger never left.

César Hernández broke a slump of his own, going 2-for-4 with a strikeout and notching his first hit in three games. He was also the first to step up and defend Andres Gimenez from Adam Eaton, who had a lot of misplaced anger over the fact that he went to grab his helmet, let go of second base, and was tagged out in the first inning. He ended up very lightly shoving Gimenez and later came back to apologize. Basically a non-issue, but it was nice to see Hernández so quick to step up and defend him.

It still led to a brief benches-clearing huffing contest, though.

There was a terrifying two innings to start the game where it looked like Lance Lynn was going to hand them another no-hitter. I know, it was only two innings — but based on what we saw the night before, they looked like the same dead offense for a while there. The man only throws fastballs, but all three were working well early on. His four-seamer, in particular, fooled Cleveland batters with 12 whiffs and eight called strikes.

Maybe the most interesting thing about this game was the dichotomy of the two starting pitchers. Whereas Lynn throws three pitches (four-seamer, cutter, sinker) that are basically the same thing with small variations, Aaron Civale throws everything and a kitchen sink with some drop.

Today, Civale threw a total of six pitches, as identified by Statcast. The two sinkers may be something else misidentified, but the rest of his pitch selection was fascinating before you even get into when and where he used all these pitches:

  • Four-seamer fastball: 31
  • Changeup: 28
  • Curveball: 16
  • Slider: 12
  • Cutter: 10
  • Sinker: 2

His slider, in particular, was virtually unhittable with seven of its 12 uses going for a called strike or a whiff, for a CSW rate of 58%. He also painted his fair share of corners with the curveball, as well.

Civale finished the game with only four strikeouts in six innings, but he limited the White Sox to a lot of weak contact and lowered his season ERA to 2.18.

After Nick Wittgren mopped up the seventh with a clean inning, the stellar duo of James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase closed out the eighth and ninth innings to seal the win. Each allowed a hit, and a run even scored on Clase, though it went unearned due to an error by Andres Gimenez. The runner who scored, Luis Robert, would not have even been at third if Josh Naylor ran a better route on a slicing ball down the right-field line.

He, uh, did not, and he was lucky that it wasn’t an inside-the-park home run instead of a stand-up triple. It didn’t phase Clase, though, who induced a fly out to end the game.

Corner Pieces

  • Cleveland’s win today split the series at two games apiece. I may be biased, but it’s an early contender for series of the year, and I cannot wait to watch these two teams play another dozen times this year.
  • All but two of Clase’s 13 fastballs (three four-seamers, 10 cutters) were over 100 mph. His command was impeccable today, and he even mixed in a couple of sliders against Jake Lamb and Andrew Vaughn.
  • Ben Gamel came into the game late as a defensive replacement and made a poor defensive play. He was also 0-for-1 at the plate and has yet to record a hit this season.

Wait, what?

There was a sacrifice bunt — and it wasn’t awful! It came in the seventh inning with runners on first and second, no outs, and with a 2-1 lead. With Austin Hedges at the plate, this is the one and only time I will ever commend a sac bunt attempt. It even helped plate a run in the next at-bat when Andres Gimenez hit a weak dribbler to third. Could they have gotten more by letting Hedges swing away and not giving away one of their finite outs to advance a runner in scoring position? Maybe! But Hedges also is a bad hitter, so it’s whatever.

What’s next

Cleveland will head to Cincinnati to begin the Battle of Ohio. They’ll be playing under caveman rules and will be required to have a pitcher hitting. The three-game series starts tomorrow at 7:10 p.m. ET with Logan Allen on the mound.