Indians manager Terry Francona’s decision to start Trevor Bauer in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees instead of American League Cy Young Award candidate Corey Kluber was controversial, to say the least. Bauer doesn’t quite have Kluber’s credentials, and the team’s best starter typically starts Game 1 of a playoff series barring certain circumstances like that team having just played a Wild Card game.
Francona was also second-guessed last postseason when he dared to use his relievers unconventionally. Andrew Miller, who had typically pitched one inning per appearance either in the seventh or eighth, was used in multiple-inning stints as early as the fifth inning. It caught on, as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Cubs manager Joe Maddon used Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, respectively, in unorthodox ways later that postseason.
Francona was proven correct again on Thursday as Bauer twirled 6 2/3 shutout innings against the Yankees. He brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but it was ended when Aaron Hicks doubled to left field with one out. He gave up only two hits in total along with a walk while striking out eight on 98 pitches. Francona lifted him with two outs in the seventh after allowing a two-out single to Starlin Castro. Miller came in and struck out Greg Bird to end the frame.
Jay Bruce provided the bulk of the offense, though the scoring opened with Roberto Perez grounding into a run-scoring double play in the bottom of the second. Bruce lifted a two-run home run to right field off of Sonny Gray in the fourth inning and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth against Jaime Garcia to boost the Indians’ lead to 4-0. The run was charged to Gray; Garcia ended up pitching 2 2/3 innings without allowing a hit.
Miller continued on in the eighth, striking out two and walking two before giving way to closer Cody Allen. Allen struck out Judge to end the frame. In the ninth, the right-hander set down Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, then worked around a two-out Starlin Castro single by striking out Bird to nail down the 4-0 victory.
The ALDS continues on Friday at 5:00 PM ET. The Indians will put their 1-0 series lead in the hands of Kluber, who will oppose the Yankees’ CC Sabathia.