CLEVELAND — A Cleveland Indians fan, who most likely flagged down a beer vendor a time or two Thursday night at Progressive Field, kept yelling the same thing over and over to anyone who would listen as he happily headed out of the ballpark.
“In Tito, we trust,” he said. “In Tito, we trust.”
How can you not trust Indians manager Terry Francona? He made a very unconventional decision leading into Game 1 of his team’s matchup with the New York Yankees in the best-of-five American League Division Series, and it worked out beautifully.
Trevor Bauer, serving as understudy to ace Corey Kluber, was dominant for 6 2/3 innings as pitched two-hit ball over 6 2/3 innings and combined with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen on a three-hit shutout in leading the Indians to a 4-0 victory.
Francona opted to pitch Kluber, the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award after going 18-4 in the regular season, in Game 2 on Friday night against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia. The rationale was Kluber would be able to pitch on regular rest if a winner-take-all Game 5 was necessary next Wednesday at Progressive Field.
“I kind of live by you do what you think is right, and you answer the questions, and then in the morning I don’t run to see how I’m being perceived,” Francona said. “You have to have the confidence of what you’re doing. And it’s not always going to work. 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.”
Bauer was unbeatable on this night, though, building on his strong finish to the regular season. He went 10-1 with a 2.60 ERA in his last 14 starts.
Bauer struck out eight, walked one and continually froze the Yankees hitters with his curveball. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Aaron Hicks doubled to left with one out.
Last season, Bauer got his first opportunity to pitch in the postseason as the Indians reached the World Series before falling to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings in Game 7.
He felt that experience helped Thursday night. At least, to an extent.
“It wasn’t a huge shock because of the little bit of experience I had dealing with it last year,” Bauer said. “Obviously, (Francona) having the confidence to start me is big but it’s just baseball.
“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, you try to execute it and then the results are going to be what they are.
“Tonight was a good night for us.”
Bauer was so good that by the time the game was over, it was easy to wonder why all the fuss had made over Francona’s decision.
“I think, first and foremost, it speaks volumes of the confidence that (Francona) and the coaching staff have in Trevor,” said Indians right fielder Jay Bruce, who was acquired Aug. 9 from the New York Mets in a trade and was the other star of Game 1 as he homered, doubled and drove in three runs.
“I don’t know Tito too well. I obviously have gotten to know him over the last month and a half or whatever here but I do know that every decision he makes is very well thought out and there’s a method to his madness. Being up 1-0 in a short series and having your ace coming in for Game 2 bodes well, I think.”