As the American League Championship Series moves north of the border into Canada on Monday night, the host Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in desperate straits.
The Blue Jays trail the visiting Cleveland Indians by two games to one in the best-of-seven series, and simply cannot afford to fall into a 3-0 hole.
There have been 35 postseason series in Major League Baseball history that started with one team running out to a 3-0 lead.
Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have won, rallying from that 0-3 deficit to take four straight from the arch-rival New York Yankees, a springboard to the BoSox ending their “Curse of the Bambino” by eventually winning the World Series.
Grant Brisbee with SB Nation did a nice breakdown of this situation when the Baltimore Orioles fell behind the Kansas City Royals by 3-0 in the 2014 ALCS, and when the Chicago Cubs fell behind the New York Mets 3-0 in last year’s NLCS.
If the Jays are to save their season and get into this series, they are going to need a big effort in front of the frenzied fans at Rogers Centre.
Fortunately for the Blue Jays, they may have just the antidote to their ills in Cleveland starting pitcher.
The 25-year-old right-hander is now in his third full big league season
Bauer had a 2016 season that was very typical of the performances that he has put up historically thus far in his career: 12-8, 4.26 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, 179 hits allowed over 190 innings pitched with a 168/70 K:BB ratio.
Bauer frequently gets himself into trouble with command and control issues. He had nine starts this season in which he walked at least three batters.
While Bauer provided the Indians with 16 quality starts out of 28, only seven of those came in his final 17 starts.
Over his last 16 starts, Bauer’s numbers got fairly ugly with a 5.51 ERA and .274 Batting Average Against. He allowed 101 hits over 94.2 innings, and had a -1.146 WPA mark.
His numbers since the start of September show even further deterioration with a 6.39 ERA over a half-dozen starts during the final month of the regular season.
He took the mound for Game 1 of the ALDS versus the BoSox, an eventual 5-4 victory for the Indians.
But in that start, Bauer lasted just 4.2 innings over which he allowed three earned runs on six hits, yielding home runs to bothin the third and in the fifth inning.
The Blue Jays have faced Bauer four times in his career. He has a horrible 6.27 career ERA and 1.554 WHIP against the Jays in those outings, which include three starts.
This season, Bauer made two appearances against the Blue Jays, one at Rogers Centre in Toronto in early July, and then in mid-August at home at Progressive Field.
At Toronto on July 1, Bauer came on in relief in a game that went 19 innings, pitching the final five frames and gaining the victory when the Tribe won 2-1 on ahome run.
In that relief outing, Bauer allowed just two hits over five innings, striking out three but also walking three batters.
On August 19 at home, Bauer set a career high by striking out 13 Blue Jays batters. He allowed just five hits over eight innings, yielding two earned runs.
Bauer did not get the win in that one, however, as the Jays received a strong start byand took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
The Indians again won late, taking a 3-2 decision with a pair of home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the second a dramatic walk-off inside-the-parker byoff .
While the Indians can take some solace in those two performances by Bauer this season in his head-to-head meetings with the Blue Jays, his overall performances over the last two months have to be concerning.
Bauer has now allowed three or more earned runs in seven consecutive starts, counting the ALDS start against Boston.
Add in the mishap in which he cut the pinky finger on his pitching hand while working with a homemade drone just four days ago, an incident that caused managerto drop him back from a scheduled start in Game 2 to this one, and you have even more about which to be concerned.
“I plugged it in, like I’ve done thousands of times, and my finger happened to be in front of one of the (four) propellers,” said Bauer per Cleveland.com Indians reporter Paul Hoynes.
“For whatever reason, three of the propellers didn’t spin like they’re supposed to, and this one spun up at max throttle. I have no idea why it happened. My finger just happened to be in the way of the prop and it cut me.”
is hitting .500 with a homer off Bauer. is hitting .400 with three RBI. is hitting for a .556 average against Bauer.
On the good side for the Cleveland righty, he has handled slugger, who is hitting just .125 over eight career at-bats against Bauer.
Look for Toronto’s bats to come out “max throttle” in front of the home fans, to let Bauer get himself into trouble and then pound him for a victory that gets them back in this American League Championship Series on Monday night.