Trevor Bauer stood near the back of the mound, breathed slowly, swayed his head and took two steps forward to assume his position on the rubber.
It was the middle of the seventh inning, and Bauer was nine outs away from recording his first career no-hitter in impressive and emphatic fashion — at Coors Field, a hellscape for opposing pitchers, and in his first start since winning the National League Cy Young Award, signing with the reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers and obtaining a record-setting contract.
Bauer’s first pitch in Friday’s bottom of the seventh, a 90 mph fastball, was lined to left field for a base hit by Trevor Story. His third pitch, a 75 mph knuckle curve, was deposited into the Colorado Rockies’ bullpen in right-center field. His 11th pitch, an 84 mph cutter to Ryan McMahon, sailed over the right-field scoreboard.
Bauer had gone from untouchable to unrecognizable in an instant, a reminder of the oddities that perpetuate a baseball stadium residing more than 5,000 feet above sea level.
On Thursday, a Cody Bellinger two-run homer was scored as a one-run single after Justin Turner crossed paths with him on the bases. On Friday, a fluffy gray cat ran out near the third-base dugout and settled in center field to take a break. And through both nights, the mighty Dodgers accumulated a whopping 31 hits — none of which resulted in home runs. Weird.
“Weird? Come on, media, you guys should love this — we’re not just relying on the home-run ball,” Turner said after an 11-6 victory. “How many times have we heard that in the past?”
There isn’t a whole lot that can be gleaned from 1.2% of a season, but the first two games of 2021 — a win and a loss — have reinforced two obvious points about a Dodgers team that might threaten to break the single-season wins record.
1. The offense could be among the greatest ever. Corey Seager (5-for-8) has stayed locked in through the 2020 regular season, the ensuing playoffs, the spring training that spilled over into the new year and the real games that followed it. But Mookie Betts, Max Muncy and Will Smith are already in sync, Bellinger looks comfortable with a slightly open stance, and 23-year-old second baseman Gavin Lux, who simplified his swing largely by cutting out the excess hand movement in his setup, looks poised to break out.
2. Adding Bauer to this rotation is unfair.
Through the first six innings of his 2021 debut, Bauer allowed one baserunner, recorded nine strikeouts and seemed primed to join Hideo Nomo as the only pitchers to throw a no-hitter at Coors Field. He was commanding his slider and cutter, two pitches that accounted for 12 of his 15 swings and misses, and staring down the Rockies’ hitters as they swung through them.
It marked the third time Bauer took a no-hitter into the seventh, but also the third time he couldn’t complete it.
“I don’t really care,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. It’s not something that’s in the pitcher’s control. Unless you strike out 27 guys, there’s gonna be balls put in play and that’s luck, whether they get hit at people or the defense makes a great play.
“There were a lot of great defensive plays behind me tonight. I very easily could have given up hits before the seventh. I look at it as luck and I try to focus on things I can control, which is my physical preparation, mental preparation, the stuff coming out of my hand, my decisions on the mound and where the ball ends up at the plate. Those are really the only five things I can control.”
Most of the questions surrounding the Dodgers’ surprise signing of Bauer this offseason centered on social-media history and overall reputation, but there were also questions about his pitching.
Before last year’s dominant season with the Cincinnati Reds — at least partly influenced by a regionalized schedule in which he constantly faced inferior lineups — Bauer had posted a 3.99 ERA while averaging 181 innings from 2014 to 2019. He was a reliable, well-above-average starter, but not necessarily the type of rotation anchor who would command $85 million over a two-year stretch.
Bauer refuted that notion in spring training, noting the injuries he dealt with in 2019 and stating that his numbers compare favorably to the likes of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg since he altered his approach for the second half of the 2017 season. (For the record: Bauer’s numbers are very similar to Strasburg’s during that stretch, even though Bauer accumulated significantly more innings, but Cole’s are noticeably better.)
“If you actually look at it,” Bauer said in early March, “I’ve been pretty elite.”
His first six innings of 2021 seemed to validate some of that.
Watching it fall apart in the seventh — possibly a byproduct of Bauer spending a lot of time running the bases in the thin air of Colorado during the prior half-inning — didn’t change much.
“This is the first time I really got to watch him compete in a regular-season game, and it was really fun to watch,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was in complete control.”
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Edwin Rios to have season-ending shoulder surgery
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Dodgers backup third baseman Edwin Rios will miss the rest of the season after surgery on his right shoulder.
Right-hander Dustin May also underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, sidelining him until at least the summer of 2022.
The defending World Series champions announced their decision later Wednesday on Rios, who has a partially torn labrum. He will have surgery next week.
The Dodgers also shut down Josiah Gray, their top pitching prospect, due to a right shoulder impingement. Gray, who was scratched from his minor league start at the last minute Tuesday night, will rest for at least a week before re-evaluation.
Rios got off to a rough start this season with the Dodgers, batting .078 with one homer in 25 games while clearly struggling with his swing.
The 27-year-old Puerto Rican prospect made his major league debut in 2019. Rios appeared in seven postseason games last fall, hitting two homers in the NLCS against Atlanta.
He had hoped to land a steady backup role playing third base and first base this year for Los Angeles. Instead, the Dodgers will have to use even more of their depth after the latest setback in their significant early-season injury woes.
Along with losing May from the starting rotation, the Dodgers are still without 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger, who incurred a hairline fracture in his leg in their first series of the season. There is no timetable for his return to action.
Starting pitchers Tony Gonsolin and David Price are still returning deliberately from injuries to bolster what was probably the deepest rotation in baseball before the season. The staff is already short-handed now, with a bullpen game or a spot start likely necessary Monday against Arizona.
Promising rookie utilityman Zach McKinstry is also still out with strained right oblique, while key right-handed reliever Corey Knebel likely is out for months with a strained back muscle. The bullpen also is missing Brusdar Graterol (forearm) and Scott Alexander (shoulder) with shorter-term injuries.
Arizona Diamondbacks add Zac Gallen, Christian Walker to a crowded injured list
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks continued to deal with a surge of early-season injuries, putting starting pitcher Zac Gallen and first baseman Christian Walker on the 10-day injured list Wednesday.
Gallen has a sprained right ulnar collateral ligament, which is the ligament replaced in Tommy John surgery. Walker has a sore right oblique; a similar injury put him on the IL earlier this season.
Gallen has emerged as one of baseball’s top young pitchers. He finished ninth in the NL Cy Young Award voting last season and had a 3.04 ERA through five starts this year.
Manager Torey Lovullo was confident the D-backs’ medical team caught Gallen’s injury early, saying the elbow sprain was “minor” and that he was hopeful the 25-year-old would be able to avoid having the Tommy John procedure.
“We have multiple opinions that are coming in and as of right now, it looks like we’re going to reassess in a couple weeks,” Lovullo said.
Gallen missed his first start of the season with a hairline fracture in his right forearm that happened when he was taking batting practice during spring training. Lovullo said the two injuries aren’t related.
Walker has already missed three weeks this season because of oblique soreness. The 30-year-old returned on May 4 and played in seven games before getting hurt again on Monday. Lovullo said Walker’s injury is in the same general area.
“These are challenging times,” Lovullo said. “It’s stuff we talk about, stuff we budget for and what I’ll say is every team walks through very challenging situations. It’s how we respond to those situations that’s going to separate us.”
Gallen and Walker join a host of other D-backs who have made trips to the injured list this season. Outfielders Ketel Marte, Kole Calhoun and Tim Locastro, shortstop Nick Ahmed and pitchers Joakim Soria, Tyler Clippard and Taylor Widener have all missed time with injuries.
The Diamondbacks called up pitcher Seth Frankoff and utility player Andy Young to take the place of Gallen and Walker on the active roster.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Milwaukee Brewers ace Corbin Burnes says he had COVID-19, but was asymptomatic
Burnes is expected to start Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals in his first appearance since April 26. He is 2-2 with a 1.53 ERA, 49 strikeouts and no walks in 29 1/3 innings.
Although the Brewers are among the major league teams that had some protocols relaxed after reaching an 85% vaccination rate, Burnes said Wednesday he opted against getting vaccinated for personal reasons.
Burnes said he had “no clue” how he might have gotten the virus and initially believed it was a false positive.
“So we did all the subsequent testing after, and it came back that it was an actual positive,” Burnes said. “We were fortunate enough that throughout the contact tracing and everything else that no one else was forced to miss time and no one else tested positive. So as far as that front goes, it was successful.”
The Brewers hadn’t specified the reason they placed Burnes on the injured list. Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns simply said at the time that “we’re following Major League Baseball health and safety protocols.”
Burnes said he has no concern about whether he could pick up where he left off after missing a couple of starts.
He has an opportunity on Thursday to break the Major League Baseball record for most strikeouts to start a season without allowing a walk. Los Angeles Dodgers reliver Kenley Jansen punched out 51 batters in 2017 before issuing his first free pass.
“My goal always as a pitcher is to go out there and to minimize how many guys you put on base,” Burnes said. “For me this year, I’ve done a really good job of making guys earn it, to try to hit good pitches to get on base and earn their way on, and obviously I’m not going to be able to not walk anybody all year.
“At some point, it’s going to happen. But for me, it’s just going out there and trying to minimize the number of unexecuted pitches and make guys earn it to get on base.”
Burnes allowed just one run in his first four appearances before giving up five runs – four earned – over five innings in an 8-0 loss to Miami on April 26. Opponents are batting .152 against him.
Although he had to be away from the team for 10 days due to his positive test, Burnes said he was able to continue his own workouts since he was asymptomatic.
“I had some weights at the apartment, so I was able to do some workouts on the floor of the apartment,” Burnes said. “And I had my wife’s Peloton here, so I was able to do some big conditioning workouts and keep the cardio in shape.
“There’s a little grass field right outside our apartment complex and I had a net. I was fortunate to have some balls and stuff with me from the offseason, so I was able to throw into a net every day and do everything in my power to keep the arm, to keep the body ready.”
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