Trevor Bauer flirts with no-hitter, gets plenty of support to win Dodgers debut
One didn’t need a view of home plate at Coors Field to know Trevor Bauer was overwhelming the Colorado Rockies for the first six innings of the Dodgers’ 11-6 win Friday night. His body language told the story.
He stared down Raimel Tapia after striking him out to end the third inning. He released a roar and a muted Conor McGregor strut when Dom Nuñez whiffed on a curveball to conclude the fifth. The strut became more pronounced by the end of the sixth, after getting Josh Fuentes to flail at a slider for his eighth strikeout.
At that point, six innings into his Dodgers debut, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner was crafting the second no-hitter in Coors Field history, a mile-high hitter’s haven opened in 1995. He was feeling himself. The Dodgers were enjoying a 10-run lead.
“I thought he was in complete control,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Then a Coors Field Special erupted.
The Rockies swatted away Bauer’s fling with history in the seventh inning, scoring four runs on two homers before he was replaced. David Price relieved Bauer in his own Dodgers debut and promptly surrendered back-to-back home runs to the first two batters he faced.
In all, the Rockies scored six runs on four home runs, but the Dodgers avoided a complete meltdown to secure their first win of the season in another bizarre game that featured a stray cat running onto the field in the eighth inning to cause a brief delay.
A night after going three for 16 while leaving 14 runners on base in their opening-day loss, the Dodgers didn’t squander many opportunities. They pounced on Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela with two runs in each of the first two innings. They added three in the fourth, chasing the right-hander with one out, and posted four more against Colorado’s bullpen.
The Dodgers accumulated 16 hits, giving them 31 through two games. And despite the thin air, none was technically a home run (a baserunning gaffe rendered Cody Bellinger’s ball over the wall Thursday a single). Justin Turner, Corey Seager and Will Smith each compiled three hits Friday. Mookie Betts and Gavin Lux each contributed two. Both Lux and Bellinger tripled.
“We’re not just relying on the home-run ball,” Turner said. “How many times have we heard that in the past? This is a well-rounded offense that can beat you in a lot of ways. It’s not just about sitting back and hitting homers.”
Hideo Nomo threw only no-hitter at Coors Field on Sept. 17, 1996. The Japanese right-hander, then in his second season in the major leagues, survived a rain delay of more than an hour. He threw 110 pitches, walked four, and struck out nine.
Bauer was more dominant through six innings Friday in his second career appearance in the ballpark. Aided by an acrobatic play by Lux at second base to end the first inning, Bauer needed just 76 pitches, 54 for strikes, for the first 18 outs. He rode his slider and cutter to nine strikeouts. He walked one. His dominance ended there.
Bauer’s seventh inning began not on the mound, but in the batter’s box. Bauer despises hitting, but it’s a requirement for at least another year in the National League, so he stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs.
He was instructed to drop a sacrifice bunt and return to the dugout to prepare for what he’s paid to do. He succeeded, tapping a pitch back to pitcher Ben Bowden. But Bowden’s throw home to get Smith was off the mark, allowing Smith to score and Bauer to reach base. He was given a jacket to stay warm as he stayed on the bases for a pitching change and three batters before the inning ended.
Bauer later shot down the idea that his time as a baserunner contributed to his trouble. He said he just missed pitches. The momentum shift was sudden.
Trevor Story, the Rockies’ best player, broke the no-hitter with a leadoff, line-drive single on the first pitch of the seventh. Two pitches later, Charlie Blackmon smacked a home run over the right-field wall. Bauer then issued his second walk to C.J. Cron before Ryan McMahon clubbed the next pitch for a two-run home run. They were the first home runs hit in the series after 15 innings without one.
Bauer faced one more hitter. He ended a nine-pitch clash with Garrett Hampson with his 10th strikeout, prompting Roberts to take the ball from him. Bauer walked off to a loud ovation from the strong contingent of Dodgers fans making up about half of the 20,363 fans in attendance.
In eight previous opening day starts, Clayton Kershaw was all but unhittable. In his ninth, however, he was rocked by Colorado in the Dodgers’ 8-5 loss.
“That whole ‘not favorable to pitchers’ thing is overblown,” Bauer said about Coors Field. “I think a lot of guys come in here and beat themselves mentally before they even take the mound.”
After the game, Bauer insisted he never thought about the no-hitter as the zeroes piled up. He maintained throwing a no-hitter isn’t a career goal. In his eyes, no-hitters are about luck and he can’t think about luck. He focuses on what he can control — his preparation, his sequencing, his execution.
But luck was on his side for six innings Friday, and he was strutting and staring until the no-hitter vanished in the thin air.
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