CLEVELAND (AP) — Trevor Bauer walked into the Indians’ clubhouse lugging the javelin-like exercise bar he uses to warm up and zipped it inside a vinyl carrying case in his locker.
He packed the Tigers away almost as easily.
Bauer outpitched former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and tamed Detroit’s menacing lineup, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 6-2 win on Tuesday night.
Bauer (1-1), recalled earlier in the day for his second start this season, held the AL’s top hitting team to two runs and seven hits in six-plus innings.
“He was aggressive, attacking the strike zone,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He changed speeds and used all his pitches. That’s not the easiest assignment, coming up from Triple-A to face them. He really did a great job.”
Mike Aviles hit a two-run double in the second when the Indians scored four runs off Verlander (5-3), who didn’t settle in until the damage was already done.
David Murphy homered in the seventh for the last-place Indians, who can sweep the three-game series with the Central-leading Tigers on Wednesday.
Torii Hunter and Alex Avila homered for Detroit, which has lost two straight road games after winning 11 in a row.
The Indians were anxious to see how the head-strong 23-year-old Bauer, with the unorthodox warm-up routine and blazing fastball, would perform against a lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Hunter. Bauer has been dominating minor league hitters at Columbus, and had never faced any hitters of this caliber.
He was more than up for the challenge.
“It was nice to come out and do that,” Bauer said.
Obviously, it helped he was staked to an early four-run lead and Detroit leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler ran his club out of a potentially big inning in the fifth when he challenged left fielder Michael Brantley, who threw him out at second.
Bauer held Hunter, Cabrera and Martinez to a combined 2 for 8, and he was helped by two double plays — one he finished by covering first base on a close play to end the sixth.
Trailing 5-2, the Tigers had runners at first and second with one out when Nick Castellanos hit grounder to first. The Indians got the force at second and Bauer hustled to first to get the return throw. Castellanos was ruled safe, but Francona challenged the call, and after the umpires reviewed the video, it was overturned.
When Bauer was lifted for Bryan Shaw after giving up a leadoff single in the seventh, he received a standing ovation from the Progressive Field crowd.
In his first season with Cleveland, Bauer made four starts but spent most of the year in the minors. The Indians weren’t always pleased with his attitude, but he’s maturing just as they hoped.
“Performing well is always pleasing, especially when the team gets the win and you can contribute to it,” Bauer said. “That was the most frustrating thing for me last year, I would go out there and I didn’t feel like I was contributing to a team win. It’s nice to be able to do that this year.”
The Tigers were impressed with Bauer.
“I saw him once or twice last year at Triple-A, so I knew he’s got good stuff,” Castellanos said. “What made him so tough tonight was he never made the same mistake twice. He kept us off-balance.”
Shaw pitched two perfect innings and Cody Allen worked a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Indians grabbed a 5-1 lead in the second, when they collected three doubles, two singles and Michael Bourn caught Detroit napping and stole third.
The unexpected outburst began with a base-running blunder as Carlos Santana singled off Cabrera’s glove at first but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Nick Swisher doubled and Yan Gomes walked before Aviles lined his two-run double into the gap in left-center.
Bourn followed with a double off the wall in right to score Aviles and Cleveland’s leadoff hitter alertly swiped third without a throw. Asdrubal Cabrera’s RBI single made it 4-1 and brought Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones out to visit Verlander, who dropped to 9-11 with a 5.36 ERA in his career at Cleveland.
NOTES: Indians 2B Jason Kipnis will begin a rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A Columbus. Kipnis has been on the disabled list since May 2 with an oblique injury and the club would like to get him in a few games before he’s activated. If all goes well, Kipnis will be back for Monday’s series opener in Chicago. … Brantley has hit safely in 17 consecutive home games, one shy of the ballpark record shared by Kenny Lofton (1996) and Roberto Alomar (2000).