The mindset that enabled Bauer to completely stymie Yankees

CLEVELAND — Best opening act ever.

The Yankees figure to have their hands full in Friday’s Game 2 of the ALDS, going against likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Really, though, how much better could Kluber be than what his teammate Trevor Bauer showed the Yankees in Thursday night’s Game 1?

Bauer registered 16 outs before allowing a hit, and he threw 6 ²/₃ stellar innings in all to lead the Indians past the Yankees, 4-0, and take a 1-0 lead in this best-of-five matchup.

“The mindset was to go out there like a closer in the first inning and put up a scoreless inning at all costs,” Bauer said. “And then, if I was still in the game, do it again in the second inning and the third and on until I was taken out of the game. So no-hitter, 10-hitter, or whatever, that was the mindset. I never really strayed from that.”

That worked just fine. The 26-year-old allowed a total of just two hits, walked one and struck out eight. He gave the Indians, who entered the game with a fully rested bullpen, more length than they anticipated. And he made Cleveland manager Terry Francona look awfully smart by saving the ace Kluber for Game 2.

“Obviously, him having the confidence in me to start me is big, but like I said earlier, it’s just baseball,” Bauer said. “Whenever I pitch, the process is the same. You come up with a game plan, you talk about it, you get on the same page with everybody, you go out there, you try to execute it, and then the results are going to be what they are. And tonight was a good night for us.”

Said Francona: “We can’t win every game. But I was completely comfortable with our decision to do what we did, for a number of reasons. Now, it’s awful nice when Trevor goes out and pitches like he does, but I wouldn’t have felt any different if they would have beat him.”

Not once, Francona said, did he factor Bauer’s no-hitter into his assessment of when to lift his starter. Bauer got the hook after giving up a two-out single to Starlin Castro, with former Yankee Andrew Miller coming in to go after Greg Bird. Miller picked up three outs and Cody Allen four, leaving the Yankees’ heads spinning over what they had just seen.

“His curveball was really good tonight,” Joe Girardi said of Bauer. “It’s as good as we’ve seen it, and he’s been pitching better.”

Bauer said, “I can remember a lot of games where I had better stuff.”

Surely, however, he’ll always remember the stuff he had on this night to record his first postseason victory.

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