CLEVELAND — The Indians will enter the All-Star break on a winning note, and they have right-hander Trevor Bauer and catcher Yan Gomes to thank.
Bauer tossed another gem Sunday at Progressive Field, with Gomes driving in all of Cleveland’s runs in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the White Sox that signaled the end of the regular season’s first half.
Chicago rallied off reliever Bryan Shaw in the eighth to ruin an individual win for Bauer, but Gomes rode to the rescue in the bottom of the inning with a two-run home run that lifted the third-place Indians back to .500 at 47-47.
Cleveland trails the first-place Tigers by 7½ games in the Central Division standings.
“We’re right there, especially in this division,” said Gomes, whose one-out single off White Sox starter John Danks scored the game’s first run in the second inning. “There’s a lot of good teams. We’ve been through the same thing as last year. There’s been some ups and downs. I feel like we’re making that turn right now.”
Bauer, a former first-round draft pick who struggled during his debut season with the Indians last year, has made plenty of progress through the first half.
It was on display in the first-half finale, with the right-hander shutting out Chicago on eight hits, while striking out a career-high 10 batters over 6⅔ innings.
“He was very good. He competed as always,” manager Terry Francona said. “As the game progressed, like he does, he got stronger. When we leave him out there when he’s up over 110 (pitches), that tells you how we feel he’s pitching.”
With his curveball as good as it has been all season, Bauer struck out eight of the last 16 batters he faced, estimating that he recorded eight of his 10 strikeouts with the curve.
Bauer allowed four hits over the first two innings before settling into a groove.
“They hit one or two balls hard today,” he said. “For whatever reason the first time through the order, they seemed to fall.
“The biggest thing was getting a win against a division opponent and, leading into the All-Star break, to kind of end on a good
note. It’s good to go into it on a positive and hopefully come out of it on a positive as well.”
Bauer was aided by solid defense all day, but none better than left fielder Mike Aviles’ play in the second inning.
Aviles tracked down a fly ball from Gordon Beckham in foul territory, then unleashed a laser throw to catch Connor Gillaspie off first for a double play. Gillaspie slipped, but Aviles had the presence of mind and arm strength to make a throw that conjured memories of the web gem from Oakland’s Orlando Cespedes earlier in the season.
“Hey, scoot over Cespedes, now we’ve got Mike Aviles throwing balls like that,” Gomes said. “It was a pretty crazy play. He makes that throw like that and he throws it away, everybody’s probably like, ‘Why’s he throwing that?’ That was pretty impressive.”
Since an early bout with errors, Gomes has begun to establish himself as one of the top overall catchers in the American League.
“I kind of thought he already did that last year,” Francona said of Gomes, who is batting .261 with 12 homers and 36 RBIs over 80 games. “He’s really good. You almost want your catcher to be indispensable and I think he’s rapidly becoming that.”
Right-hander Cody Allen locked down the win in impressive fashion, retiring the side in order, while striking out the final two batters he faced. Allen recorded his 12th save of the season, converting his 11th straight opportunity.