CLEVELAND — Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer wasn’t pleased with what he perceived as a less than brave approach from Atlanta hitters against him in the second game of a doubleheader Saturday night.
“I don’t know. It didn’t seem like they wanted to hit,” he said. “It seemed like they were looking to take pitches and foul pitches off. I guess it worked out for them.”
Bauer limited the Braves to two runs on three hits and struck out a season-high 10 batters, but a high pitch count (120) ended his night after 6 1⁄3 innings.
Atlanta rallied for five runs in the ninth to notch an improbable 8-7 win.
Bauer was asked if hitters had taken similar approaches before.
“Yeah, I saw it a lot in college my junior year when people just didn’t want to strike out so they poked at the ball and put it in play,” he said. “I saw it in Triple-A in 2014 in two or three starts before I got called up, so I’ve seen it before. I don’t know. It is what it is.”
Manager Terry Francona defended his decision to use closer Brad Hand in the ninth inning of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader despite owning a four-run lead.
It came back to haunt Francona when Hand wasn’t available as Atlanta rallied in the ninth to win Game 2.
“My thinking is, and I’ve evolved over the years,” he said, “when you have a four-run lead, I know it’s not a save situation, but if you break it down — the first guy gets on, you gotta get your (closer) up. The second guy gets on, he’s in the game. So nine times out of 10 you’re going to get the guy hot, (warming up). Why bring him in with traffic? A win’s a win. Take the win.
“(Hand) wanted to be available for the second game. Actually, he and (Nick) Wittgren came in and said, ‘We’re good to go.’ Just because players are willing, and we do appreciate it, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do, especially in April.”
Francona said he has employed the same strategy since his days as Red Sox manager.
“I always did in Boston with (Jonathan) Papelbon and I told Cody (Allen) when I came here, it just always made sense to me,” he said. “People say, well, you’re trying to create confidence with somebody else, but if you leave him out there for two hitters, all you end up doing is undoing that, too. Give the guy the ball and let him finish the game.”
Side-arming right-hander Adam Cimber was charged with four of the five runs in the ninth, walking three batters and allowing a two-run single.
Cimber, who didn’t allow an earned run in his first eight appearances, entered Saturday having not walked a batter in nine games.
“He rarely walks anybody, let alone multiple people,” Francona said. “I just think he was trying to … sometimes you pitch to try to stay away from contact as opposed to trying to induce early, weak contact, like he’s good at.”
Francona isn’t concerned that Carlos Gonzalez will be the next Hanley Ramirez — a veteran on his last leg.
Ramirez was designated for assignment Saturday to clear a roster spot for shortstop Francisco Lindor.
“He’s been very good,” Francona said of Gonzalez, who saved runs with a nice catch in left field in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader and entered Sunday batting .278 (5-for-18) with one RBI over four games. “You can tell he knows his way around the field. He’s got a little presence to him, actually a lot of presence to him. He’s gonna be really good for us.”
Francona turns 60 today.
He was told he didn’t look a day over 60 before quipping, “I feel a day over 80.”
With some of his children and grandchildren in town, he told reporters he hosted an Easter egg hunt in his office before Sunday’s game.
Oscar Mercado continues to tear it up at Triple-A Columbus, batting .321 with six doubles, a triple, seven RBIs and seven stolen bases in 14 games.
The 24-year-old outfielder was acquired from St. Louis for minor league outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres at the trading deadline last season.
Mercado, the Cardinals’ second-round draft pick in 2013, was ranked as Cleveland’s fifth-best prospect by ESPN at the beginning of the season and was impressive during the exhibition season — .400 (16-for-40) with three home runs, three doubles, a triple and nine RBIs over 21 games.
The Indians are off today, beginning a two-game interleague series against Miami on Tuesday (6:10 p.m.).
Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 7.41 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing right-hander Pablo Lopez (1-3, 5.85).
The Indians have yet to name starter for the series finale Wednesday (1:10 p.m.) against right-hander Sandy Alcantara (1-2, 5.09). It could be Jefry Rodriguez, who filled in for an injured Mike Clevinger on April 13, allowing three runs on five hits and striking out three in a 3-0 loss to Kansas City.
Right-hander Cody Anderson is also an option.
The Indians entered Sunday batting .209, the third-lowest average, while ranking 23rd with 78 runs and an on-base percentage of .302.