CLEVELAND — Trevor Bauer is confident his pinky finger won’t burst open in Game 2 of the World Series, as it did in his abbreviated start in the American League Championship Series after he sliced it while repairing his drone.
If that bizarre storyline is put to bed Wednesday night in the cold, damp conditions at Progressive Field, then what can the Cubs expect from the eccentric 25-year-old right-hander?
Bauer appeared in 35 games for the Cleveland Indians in 2016, starting 28 and throwing 190 innings with a 4.26 ERA and 3.99 FIP. But those numbers are skewed a bit: Bauer had a 3.20 ERA in 101 innings in the first half of the season with 35 walks, 91 strikeouts and eight home runs allowed. In 89 innings in the second half of 2016, covering 15 starts, Bauer had a 5.36 ERA with the same amount of walks (35) and more home runs allowed (12).
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Bauer is prone to wildness, having issued three or more walks in nine of his appearances this year, including a five-walk, eight-run start against Minnesota Aug. 3. Still, Bauer averaged 6 1/3 innings per start in the regular season, averaging just under four pitches per batter faced.
The biggest key for the Cubs’ patient lineup, though, may not be forcing his pitch count up — it’ll be getting to him early, given Terry Francona’s aggressive bullpen management means they may not face him a third time through the order. That’s where Bauer’s been the most vulnerable, allowing a .283/.338/.481 slash line (an .820 OPS) compared to a .671 OPS the first time through and a .675 OPS the second time through. Even if Andrew Miller, who threw 46 pitches on Tuesday, isn’t available, it’d be a surprise to see Bauer stay in beyond 80 or so pitches, assuming his finger holds up.
“I don't think that finger's going to be the reason he wins or loses,” Francona said, though he added he thought that before Bauer’s ALCS Game 3 start, too.