It was the third inning of a scoreless game when Trevor Bauer felt inspired, stood up from the bench in the visitors' dugout at Dodger Stadium and gave Indians center fielder Michael Brantley a hug.
“Just kind of felt like he could use a hug,” said Bauer, the Indians’ starting pitcher in a 5-4 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon. Brantley, he noted, has run into a streak of bad luck at the plate.
Maybe Bauer, a star at Hart High in Newhall and an All-American at UCLA making his first start at Dodger Stadium, was also looking for some karmic assistance.
The third overall selection in the 2011 draft has made strides this season. At home in Cleveland, Bauer owns a 4-3 record and an earned-run average of 3.48. But on the road, a win has eluded him. After a no-decision on Wednesday, Bauer is 0-5 in nine career road starts. He’s 4-3 in the same number of home starts.
If there were a place to break the streak, it would be in Los Angeles. Friends and family were at Dodger Stadium to watch the game, as well as his unique pregame long-toss routine.
Before the game, Vin Scully mused, “Maybe he’ll think it’s home and pitch a gem.”
He did for four innings. His curveball grew teeth by the second inning, and he settled into a groove. He limited the walks that have proved destructive.
Of all things, it was a mistake to his opposing pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu that temporarily unglued Bauer in the fifth inning. Pitching with a 2-0 lead and two outs, Bauer gave up a double down the line to Ryu that scored Miguel Rojas from first base.
Bauer walked the next two batters. He then gave up a two-run single to Andre Ethier. There were three mound visits in the inning.
“I just felt a little out of sync that whole inning,” he said.
“When Ryu got that hit, it seemed like he started elevating a little bit,” said Indians Manager Terry Francona. “It cost him three runs.”
Bauer exited with two outs in the sixth inning, trailing 3-2 — close enough for a decisive eighth-inning rally for the Indians. After the game, he appeared pleased with the result.
But even here, so close to home, even after a string of several quality road starts, he remained winless away from home. For that, maybe Bauer is the one in need of a hug.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter: @zhelfand