CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer took the mound angry in the fifth inning on Tuesday night. No matter what pitch the Indians starter threw to that point, it seemed like the A's had an answer. Oakland had collected hits off his four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter and changeup, and Bauer was fed up.
"I decided after the fourth I just wasn't going to let them hit the ball anymore," Bauer said, after an overpowering showing in a 9-4 win over the A's.
With his velocity climbing and his curveball as effective as it's been all season, Bauer struck out the side in the fifth and never looked back. In a span of 10 batters from the fifth to the seventh innings, the right-hander piled up nine punchouts. When the smoke cleared, Bauer had established a career-high 14 strikeouts, helping Cleveland match a franchise record for a nine-inning game with 19 on the night.
Bauer's 14 strikeouts were also the most for an American League pitcher this season.
Bauer's frustration may have fueled his fastball -- his four-seamer jumped to 95.8 mph in the fifth from 93.6 mph in the third -- but it was his curveball that really made the difference. Per Statcast™, Oakland entered the evening ranked last in the Majors in average (.119) and slugging percentage (.178) against curves, and Bauer took full advantage with 46 thrown in his seven innings.
That helped balance a fastball that topped out at 97.1 mph.
"It's just me being really, really, really [ticked] off," Bauer said of the velocity.
Seven of Bauer's strikeouts came via his curve, and each of those came from the fifth inning on. The pitcher generated 10 swinging strikes with the pitch and got 10 called strikes with the pitch. Only one was put in play. On the night, Bauer threw 41-percent curveballs, which was a considerable jump from his season rate (21.6 percent, entering Tuesday).
Here are all 14 of Trevor Bauer's strikeouts vs. Oakland. Had 7 swinging strikeouts on his curve in final three innings. pic.twitter.com/xsVnYpvfSx
"His curveball was his best pitch today," A's third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. "He was getting ahead of hitters, and he just had that working. I think that anytime a guy with stuff like that is attacking the strike zone and getting us to chase, it's going to be a long day, and it was."
Bauer threw his curveball on the first pitch more times (14) than any other pitch against the A's, but also buried it in two-strike counts to put hitters away.
"Early in the year, guys started swinging at the first-pitch fastball," Indians catcher Roberto Perez. "We were talking and said, 'We've got to use the curveball more. I think that's one of your best pitches.' Why not throw it first pitch? Because we were throwing it 0-2 every time, and guys were laying off."
True, the A's may have been an opportunistic opponent for Bauer, who was charged with three runs on seven hits with one walk in the win. Even so, the righty has had mixed results with his curve all year, playing a role in his 6.00 ERA. In April, hitters posted a .313 average and .500 slugging percentage against the pitch. This month, those marks have dropped to .233 and .300, respectively.
Last year, Bauer allowed a .134 average and .221 slugging percentage on his curve.
"I mean it's my best pitch. It always has been," Bauer said. "So, when it is working, it's nice. When it is really good like tonight, I just try to leverage it and use it as much as possible."
That approach really took hold in the fifth inning.
"Boy," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "Trev put his foot on the gas."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.