Consistency eludes Bauer down the stretch

Right-hander struggling as club tries to chase down contenders

Consistency eludes Bauer down the stretch

CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer has been searching for some semblance of consistency for the past month. Over that same time period, the Indians have steadily marched up the standings, pulling back into the discussion for the second American League Wild Card.

During a 9-2 loss to the Tigers in the nightcap of a traditional doubleheader on Sunday, Bauer labored through another abbreviated outing, putting the Tribe in an early hole that the club could not overcome. That cost Cleveland the chance to move one game over the breakeven mark for the first time since April 9 and hindered the team's ability to gain ground in the standings.

Needless to say, Bauer felt frustration in the wake of his latest setback.

"Wins are at a premium for us right now," Bauer said. "I need to perform better to help the team win."

Indians manager Terry Francona was willing to at least partially cite the day's odd circumstances in light of Bauer's struggles. Rainouts on Friday and Saturday forced Detroit and Cleveland to play a doubleheader on Sunday, throwing a wrinkle into Bauer's typical pregame preparation routine. Then, Tigers starter Randy Wolf toiled through a 50-pitch first inning, making Bauer sit for a lengthy amount of time.

By the third inning, Bauer began to flinch against the Tigers. Five batters into the fourth, the young right-hander was chased from the contest. Detroit scored two after loading the bases in the third inning and then used another bases-loaded jam -- a rally that began with a bloop single and an infield single -- to push four more runs across.

"I do think this was a tough setting," Francona said. "The one inning, we must've hit for a half-hour. I saw him go down there and throw, go down there and stay loose. It wasn't a real pretty night, but we know he can do it."

Bauer was charged with six runs on seven hits in three-plus innings, in which he struck out five and walked three. The showing came after the starter showed progress last time out in Chicago on Monday, when he walked five, but spun seven solid innings and held the White Sox to two runs on two hits. In the outing before that, though, Bauer lasted only 1 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays.

It has been that kind of rocky road lately for the pitcher.

Over his past seven starts, Bauer has turned in a 7.63 ERA, lasting fewer than four innings in four of those appearances. That said, the righty has logged three quality starts in his last five turns, going seven-plus innings twice. In-between starts, Bauer has worked with pitching coach Mickey Callaway on different approaches in an effort to find a middle ground.

"You can break it down however way you want to break it down," Bauer said. "Coming into today, I had three or four pretty decent ones. Now you can look at it and say two of my last three have been terrible. I don't know. It's vexing. It's up and down, clearly. I guess it's easier to handle stuff where it's not quite as much of an extreme.

"But, it's like I'm [one extreme or the other]. When I pitch well, the team has a chance to win. But, the nights where I don't pitch well, I can't even keep it close enough to let the team compete and have chance. That's the worst part of it. The bad nights, we don't even have a chance."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.