HOUSTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona was not sure how he was supposed to react if his team saw history through to the finish on Thursday. Following a brilliant -- but enigmatic -- six-inning outing from Trevor Bauer, Cleveland carried a no-hitter into the ninth against the Astros.
In the visitors' dugout at Minute Maid Park, Francona turned to his long-time friend and bench coach, Brad Mills.
"I said, 'If we get through this with a no-hitter, are we supposed to be excited?'" Francona said with a laugh after Cleveland's 5-1 win.
The Indians did not have to worry about the potential awkwardness of a combined no-hitter -- a solo home run by Houston's Jed Lowrie took care of that in the final inning -- but the team can celebrate the continued strides made by Bauer. There was the matter of the five walks he issued, forcing his pitch count to 111 at the time of his exit, but there were also no hits surrendered and 11 strikeouts stacked up.
It was not an ideal pitch line, but it was another glimpse into Bauer's potential.
The 24-year-old Bauer established a new career high for strikeouts in a start, and he became the only starter since at least 1914 to have at least 11 strikeouts with no hits allowed in no more than six innings. There are 33 previous occurrences of pitchers tallying that many punchouts with no hits relinquished in more than six frames, but they all went the distance.
Bauer's early struggles on Thursday robbed him of the opportunity to complete the no-hitter on his own.
"I easily could've stayed in the game," Bauer said. "But I definitely understand. It's the first start of the season, I had [over 100] pitches through six. I wasn't exactly cruising. I had some long innings, tough innings, so I definitely understand where they were coming from there."
In Bauer's first time through Houston's lineup, he either struck out or walked each batter he faced. By the end of the third inning, his pitch count had soared to 71.
"You're thinking, 'Boy, this might be a long day,'" Francona said. "Then he got through it, and the second time through, he settled down and was pretty good. He got a lot of swings and misses. He threw a lot of deep counts that ran his pitch count up, but he competed and never gave in. He didn't let it fluster him and kept attacking and ended up having a good day."
That was the aspect of Bauer's start that impressed his teammates.
"He got himself out of situations, tough ones," catcher Yan Gomes said. "It's almost like a very impressive thing to do. You kind of walk some guys, but every out that he was getting through the first couple innings was a strikeout. That shows the kind of stuff that he has.
"It's really good to see him come out and let his pitches play. I think he'll learn a lot from today, just knowing how good his stuff is."
Bauer joined Len Barker (May 5, 1981), Dennis Eckersley (May 30, 1977) and Bob Feller (April 30, 1946) as the only Indians pitchers in team history to have a double-digit strikeout showing while allowing no hits. Each of those previous three games were nine-inning no-hitters, though.
It was four-seam fastball command that eluded Bauer early in Thursday's start against the Astros, and he knows it is an issue he needs to tackle in the coming days.
"There's a lot of positives from the day, and I'll focus mostly on that," Bauer said. "The one thing I definitely need to work on, though, is getting ahead in the count. I walked five guys today, which is just unacceptable. I walked one all spring. That's more of the standard I hold myself to."
Bauer shrugged off the fact that Cleveland could not complete the no-hitter.
"Any time you have a no-hitter going, it's fun. There's a special air in the building," Bauer said. "Obviously, it's unfortunate to see the home run, but the team won, and at the end of the day, that's what matters. We took two out of three in the series and head home on a good note."