Bauer walked the first four batters he faced, matching Tampa Bay's combined walk total from its previous four games. He got out of two bases-loaded jams in his first three innings. He somehow carried a no-hitter into the fourth despite his high walk total. He even had to hit when Cleveland gave up its designated hitter.
"I thought I was out of the National League," Bauer quipped.
Who would have guessed Bauer's outfield-spanning long toss and his running, hopping warmup heave wouldn't rank among the most unusual things that happened in his Indians debut?
By the time he was done after five innings and 105 pitches, Bauer had posted a bizarre pitching line of three runs on two hits, seven walks and two strikeouts -- plus a strikeout as a batter.
"I was missing by feet, not inches," Bauer said. "Sometimes I have outings like that, where I just can't find it and then I find it, and it's kind of what happened tonight. I had a rough first and third and then, after that, kind of found it and was able to locate again."
Bauer gave up the first run right away, walking the first four Rays batters who came to the plate. That made him just the second Indians pitcher since 1984 to walk four men to start a game. Bartolo Colon did the same on April 9, 1997.
"My worst moment? Probably walking the first four batters I faced. All four of them, just group it one moment," Bauer said. "You look up and you're like, 'Oh, it's bases loaded, one run's in and I still don't have an out. Uh oh.'"
Bauer got out of the first without any further damage, thanks mostly to right fielder Ryan Raburn, who caught a line drive from Yunel Escobar and made a sharp throw home in time for catcher Lou Marson to tag out Matt Joyce. That ended the inning, helped Bauer pitch as deep into the game as he did and, as manager Terry Francona pointed out, kept the Tribe within striking distance early on.
Bauer got out of a jam in the third inning after issuing a leadoff walk to center fielder Desmond Jennings, who went on to steal second and third. When Joyce knocked a grounder to Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, Jennings dashed home. Chisenhall fired the ball to Marson, but Jennings ran straight into the 26-year-old catcher, resulting in a violent collision that clearly shook up Marson but kept a run off the board.
"I think he's got a chance to be really good," Marson said of Bauer. "He just needs to figure out something where he can get his fastball down in the zone. I don't know if it's something with his mechanics. But I think he's got a chance to be very good. He got through it."
But the Rays touched him for two more runs in the fourth inning, when Jose Molina singled -- Tampa Bay's first hit -- and Kelly Johnson deposited an 0-1 pitch into the right-field stands.
"[Bauer's] good. He's got good stuff," Jennings said. "He just couldn't find his control early."
The Rays stranded 12 runners and left the bases loaded three times, which kept the game within reach, but Tampa Bay broke it open late. Right-hander Matt Albers took over for Bauer in the sixth and gave up a run on Shelley Duncan's RBI single to right. Cody Allen allowed two more runs in the eighth, when James Loney drove home Joyce and Evan Longoria with a double to center.
"I know they spread the game out, but they didn't do it early," Francona said. "If we hit, we give ourselves a chance to win."
Meanwhile, the Indians' lineup was shut out for the second straight game after scoring 15 runs in their season-opening series against the Blue Jays. Rays right-hander Alex Cobb threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out six and allowing only four hits.
The Indians haven't been shut out in three consecutive games since June 12-14, 1991, and it's only happened five times in club history. If they want to avoid joining that group, they'll have to get back on the board Sunday against reigning American League Cy Young Award winner David Price. No small task, but Francona believes his club is up for the challenge.
"We're scuffling a little bit," Francona said. "The thing I guess I hang my hat on is the guys right now that are scuffling, they've got a track record. Baseball has an amazing way of guys getting to their level. ... As cold as guys get, they get just as hot. That'll happen."