CLEVELAND --- Bad Trevor Bauer showed up Saturday night at Progressive Field and the results were predictable.
With the opportunity to rise to the occasion and help even a pivotal series against Central Division-leading Minnesota, Bauer returned to his inconsistent ways, paving the way for a 6-2 loss.
Cleveland, which entered the series on a six-game losing streak, fell 7 1/2 games off the Twins‘ pace in the division standings.
Bauer, who lasted six innings (117 pitches), only allowed three runs -- and struck out 11 for his fifth double-digit total of the season -- but the runs all came on solo homers, two from Max Kepler, who continued his domination of the right-hander.
“Going back multiple years, coming out of the break has been hard for him,” manager Terry Francona said of Bauer. “I think he’s such a creature of habit and routine and everything. You kinda see the first couple innings and you’re like, ‘Oh, man, here (we go again),’ but to his credit, he reeled it in and competed his rear end off. He ended up getting some big strikeouts and giving us a chance, at the time, gave us a chance to win the game.”
Before Bauer struck out Kepler in the fourth, Minnesota’s right fielder, who went deep in his first two at-bats, had homered in five straight official at-bats, dating back to June 6 -- when he hit three in a 5-4 win at Progressive Field.
Kepler became just the third player in major league history to hit five straight homers off the same pitcher, joining Carlos Delgado from 2003-04 off Jorge Sosa and Frank Howard in 1963-64. Bauer is the first pitcher to ever allow five straight homers to the same player in a single season.
“It’s just one of those baseball things,” Bauer said. “In situations like that, there’s nothing I’m going to really be able to do. He’s just locked in against me for whatever reason. Last game, he hit a change-up, slider and a fastball. Today, he hit a curveball and fastball. They weren’t great pitches, obviously, but the change-up and slider last game were in areas where they shouldn’t get hit that well, and the curve ball today was in an area that generally isn’t hit that well and especially my curveball hardly ever leaves the yard.
“Sometimes guys are just hot and it doesn’t matter what you do to them, they’re going to hit it and he’s hot off me right now. It won’t be that way forever. He’ll cool down and he’ll go through an 0-for-10 with seven punch-outs.”
Bauer, who technically worked a quality start, wasn’t the only one to blame -- not even close.
The Indians did little offensively, scoring once on three hits off Twins starter, All-Star right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who allowed his only run on a homer from Jose Ramirez in the second inning.
Cleveland closed to within 3-2 on Bobby Bradley’s first career homer in the seventh -- a blast to right field that traveled an estimated 457 feet.
“I think it’s natural for young guys to press a little bit to get their first one, I mean, I get it,” Francona said. “I think Bobby’s strong enough where he doesn’t have to swing (hard) to hit home runs. He’s gonna hit some by accident. If he just barrels up balls, he’s going to be just fine.”
“That was amazing, a dream come true, and to do it in front of the home crowd is even better,” Bradley said.
After the Bradley bomb brought them to within a run, the bullpen let the Indians down for the second straight night.
Right-hander Tyler Clippard, who allowed a solo homer late in Friday’s 5-3 loss, failed to provide any relief again.
He struck out the final two batters in the seventh, but allowed a two-run double in the eighth to Jake Cave, who accounted for the other solo homer off Bauer.
Right-hander A.J. Cole allowed a run in the ninth.
Francisco Lindor has scuffled over the first two games of the series, producing only a single in eight at-bats.
Carlos Santana’s streak of reaching safely came to an end at a career-high 31 games. He had reached safely in 48 of his last 49 games prior to Saturday.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.