Smoke Signals: Kipnis puts a charge in Tribe, Bauer electrifies

Indians second baseman bookends blowout with defensive gems

Alex Hooper
August 07, 2018 - 12:00 am
Aug 6, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) makes a diving stop on a ground ball in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field.

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Jason Kipnis was ready to affect his team positively from the outset on Monday, and he got that chance.

On a 2-1 count, Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer yanked a Trevor Bauer fastball 97.6 mph toward the Cleveland Indians second baseman. Kipnis laid out to snare what looked like a surefire base hit from one of the greatest living contact hitters, and put him away.

Bauer took it from there, allowing three hits and striking out 11 through six innings. The righty knew the impact of the start, essentially citing the butterfly effect.

“Who knows how it turns out if that's a hit, right?” He said. “Because Mauer's on first, now (Eddie) Rosario's up. He has good numbers against me. If he doubles, hits a homer, something, the game might go differently. So, little things like that that change the game that you may not even realize how big they are, because whatever happens after doesn't happen.”

Whatever may have sprung from the potential base hit was not to be, and what ensued was an absolute beat down on the part of the home team. Bauer was phenomenal, but so too was the offense, as each starter either reached via base hit or scored.

“You talk so much about being ready for the first play, but I thought it kind of energized us a little bit,” Manager Terry Francona said. “That was a nice play and it looked like it energized Kip. From there, we played a good game.

Kipnis proceeded to finish the tried and true baseball idea that a great play in the field begets a home run soon thereafter. The 31-year-old smacked his, a 99.4 mph barrel to center, in the 6th. He finished 2-for-3 with a walk.

The veteran who has struggled so much since the start of 2017 had a number of moments that flashed why the organization has been so steadfast in their support of him.

It did not hurt that one of the least lucky players in baseball statistically got a little help on his 11th round-tripper.

“Did he kind of set it up?” Kipnis asked reporters post-game before receiving hesitant nods. “A little bit? Even better for me. That’s just one of those ones. You see plugging away. It’s nice, instead off having to wonder what if and shrug your shoulders and be mad about it, you get to have a sigh of relief and put a smile on your face.

“I’d say the guy does a backflip and catches it earlier in the year.”

Still, everything went back to that play in the top of the 1st, including the final play of the game. Though he didn’t have to dive, Kipnis ranged to his left to snare a grounder from Max Kepler before tossing to Yonder Alonso to end the game.

“I learned in high school and college, to be ready from the first pitch going,” he said. “The best thing about it is telling Trevor that we’re ready behind him. When you give a great pitcher like that the confidence that his defense is ready, it gives him one less thing to worry about and have him go out and pitch his game even more.”

Bauer move

When Trevor Bauer received a standing ovation in the 3rd inning after striking out Twins catcher Bobby Wilson, he knew why fans were cheering.

The right-hander is always aware of what is going on -- he notified a reporter that he was the new MLB leader in fWAR post-game – but at that juncture, he might have wanted to take a second to bask in the moment.

The strikeout looking was Bauer’s 200th of the season, making him the 11th different Indians arm to rack up 200 Ks in a season. He is also the second fastest pitcher to reach the mark.

It was not a benchmark that the 27-year-old would have easily missed. He had been waiting for the moment since his last regular season outing of 2017.

“Given how last year ended and being pulled out early -- four strikeouts away from (200) -- that's something I wanted to accomplish. So, yeah, that's a milestone. Next up is 300. So, maybe not this year, but hopefully next year.”

Before he tries to chase down the 300 strikeout mark, something done by just Bob Feller and Sam McDowell (x2), Bauer has another task on the way.

Find his 200th strikeout ball.

“I'm just hoping I get it,” he said. “I mean, it took me three years to actually get my first-hit ball after some teammates lost it and I discovered it in the bottom of a drawer two years later. So, honestly, I'm just hoping I get the ball and then I'll figure it out after that.”