CHICAGO -- Trevor Bauer headed to the batting cage at Wrigley Field on Tuesday afternoon, hoping to work on bunting before being required to bat against the Cubs in Cleveland's 6-0 win at Wrigley Field. The starter was quickly reminded that his place is on a mound, not in a batter's box.
"We actually kicked him out," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We need to let our guys pitch."
And pitch, Bauer did.
Bauer spun seven shutout innings en route to his sixth win of the season for the Indians. The right-hander struck out seven, minized the potential damage of the four hits and three walks he allowed, and wiggled his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning to stop Chicago's only real threat of the evening.
Oh, and Bauer collected his first Major League hit.
The 24-year-old Bauer led off for the Indians in the fifth inning and sent a pitch from Cubs starter Jake Arrieta up the middle and into center field for a no-doubt single. It snapped Bauer's 0-for-7 career showing in the batter's box, dating back to 2012. The analytically minded Bauer did not have an in-depth breakdown of what it took to notch his base hit.
"I don't know what happened," Bauer said with a laugh. "I threw the barrel through the middle of the zone, closed my eyes and I hit it. I was like, 'Oh wait, I hit it? Where is it? I've got to run.' I didn't think I'd ever get a career hit. I couldn't hit Little League pitching when I was younger. I never liked hitting. I've never been able to hit.
"I used to joke with my parents that I was in an eight-year slump. At least I can leave this game knowing that I got one hit."
More important for the Indians is the fact that Bauer can pitch.
With his latest performance, Bauer improved to 6-3 with a 3.22 ERA this season. The young righty has been prone to a big inning here or there -- evidenced by the three starts in which he has given up five or more runs -- but he has allowed two or fewer runs in nine of his 14 starts. Bauer encountered the makings of another big inning in the third.
After the Indians grabbed a 3-0 lead, Bauer gave up a pair of hits and issued a walk to help Chicago to a bases-loaded chance with two outs. Facing Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, who was Bauer's catcher during their days with the D-backs, Bauer worked through nine pitches before striking him out to escape.
"He put together a really good at-bat. Fortunately, it went my way that time," Bauer said. "I'd been throwing him in, changeups, I threw him a curveball. I decided to go away and try to freeze him and it didn't work out that way. But, it worked out."
Francona continues to be impressed with Bauer's progress since last year.
"I think there's a lot of differences, actually," Francona said. "I think his growth has been in a number of ways. And he continues to do that. That's the exciting part: I don't think he's reached his ceiling. He's going to learn himself, and the more and more he does that, I think he's going to be better."
Did Bauer show Francona he can be a good hitter, too?
"I don't know about that," said Francona, laughing. "He got a hit."