Trevor Bauer pitched against the Chicago Cubs on the biggest stage three years ago, starting two games and pitching in relief in Game 7 for the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series.
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Those weren’t appearances Bauer wanted to revisit Friday after he saw the Cubs again, this time as a starter for the Cincinnati Reds, 10 days after he was traded from the Indians, on a much smaller stage but in a still important game for both teams.
Bauer lost both his starts in that World Series and posted a 5.40 ERA. Five of the Cubs he saw then were in the starting lineup Friday — Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber — and Bauer was much more effective, striking out 11 in seven innings as the Reds evened the four-game series with a 5-2 victory.
“I prefer to think of the regular-season memories,” Bauer said. “I pitched pretty well against them in the regular season in interleague play. Obviously, the World Series was not ideal. I had a little bit of familiarity with those guys, which was nice.”
Bauer gave up a home run to Nicholas Castellanos, the second batter in the first inning, and then pitched six scoreless innings. He improved to 4-0 against the Cubs in the regular season and has allowed one earned run or fewer in each of the starts. He lowered his career ERA against the Cubs, not counting postseason starts, to 0.68 in 26 2/3 innings.
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After the first, Bauer ran into trouble only once more. The Cubs had runners at first and third with no outs in the fourth but failed to score.
“I got myself in trouble in the fourth, and generally those moments wake me up,” Bauer said. “I kind of lock in in those moments. I’ve tried for a lot of years to figure out how to lock in before that. It’s not as easy as it seems. Once that happened, I felt I was in control, and I executed much better in the latter half of the game.”
The Reds (55-59) bounced back after a 12-5 loss in the series opener Thursday, and Bauer bounced back after allowing three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in his first start with the Reds on Aug. 3 in Atlanta. He threw 107 pitches in that start and 106 in this one but lasted 2 1/3 more innings.
“The pitch count was definitely brutal in my first one,” Bauer said. “Tonight was pretty typical. We worked at a much better pace.”
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The offense provided support for Bauer. Aristides Aquino hit a two-run home run in the second to give the Reds a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Since the Reds promoted Aquino from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 1, he has hit four home runs in eight games, driven in 10 runs and tied for the hardest hit ball this season in the big leagues (118.3 miles per hour).
Aquino flexed his right bicep as he rounded third base following the home run. No one could blame him for showing off. He has been the Reds’ best player in August.
“He’s confident,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He believes in what he’s doing.”
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