CHICAGO — Trevor Bauer said the damage done by his drone, and the pain and discomfort that followed, is behind him.
Whether that will improve his pitching remains in question.
The Cleveland righthander, who did not perform well in Game 2 of the World Series — a 5-1 Cubs victory — will face Cubs lefthander Jon Lester in Sunday night’s Game 5 at Wrigley Field. Bauer, like the rest of the three-man Cleveland rotation in this series, will be pitching on three days’ rest.
The Indians brought a two-games-to-one lead into Saturday night’s Game 4 and went ahead 7-1 on Jason Kipnis’ three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning. Carlos Santana also homered to support Corey Kluber, who went the first six. Dexter Fowler’s homer off Andrew Miller in the eighth made it 7-2.
Bauer allowed two runs, six hits and two walks in 3 2⁄3 innings in Game 2. He got few swings and misses and struck out two. “I definitely missed location quite a bit last game,” he said.
That he made it through 3 2⁄3 innings in some ways was a victory, given how his previous postseason start had gone.
Bauer was slated to start ALCS Game 2 against the Blue Jays before suffering a deep cut on his right pinkie while playing with his drone, an injury that required 10 stitches. His start was pushed to Game 3 and lasted only two-thirds of an inning when the wound burst open and dripped blood all over Bauer’s pants and the mound.
It did not open up in Game 2 of the World Series, but Bauer did not have great command and was hit hard, leading some to believe that Indians manager Terry Francona might go with rookie lefty Ryan Merritt or righthander Danny Salazar in Game 5.
Merritt (and his 85-mph fastball) was a revelation in Cleveland’s series-clinching ALCS Game 5 victory over Toronto, throwing 4 2⁄3 scoreless innings. Salazar was 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 25 starts before a forearm injury cost him the last three weeks of the season and the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Still, Francona said he did not consider going with anyone but Bauer, who went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA this season and is 29-30 with a 4.37 ERA the last four seasons for Cleveland.
“Ryan did a really good job in his game in Toronto, but Trevor’s been a really good pitcher for us for four years,” Francona said. “If we thought that the finger was getting in the way, I understand it. But he’s come so far and battled this thing so much that I think his better game is ahead of him.”
One potential concern relating to the finger was how it would react to Bauer handling a bat. With Game 5 in a National League park, there is no DH.
“We haven’t checked it a whole lot yet just because I don’t think anybody really wanted to push it,” Francona said Saturday. “When it’s time, like maybe later today, we’ll see what he’s capable of doing without doing damage. But I don’t have the full facts yet, just because we haven’t wanted to push it.”
Francona spoke Saturday before Bauer did, and he informed the media that he indeed had given the finger a test run with a bat.
“Yeah, I just went to the cage,” he said. “Did what I would normally do before a National League game. Saw some pitches coming in, laid down some bunts and stuff like that. So it won’t be an issue.”
Nor, Bauer said, will the hostile Wrigley Field crowd. He’s looking forward to the challenge.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “The best part of it is hearing them all leave silent, you know. There’s a great crowd here. There have been great crowds on the road during all the playoffs. Being able to overcome that and win is a very rewarding feeling.”