Toledo Mud Hens right fielder Ezequiel Carrera steals second base Wednesday during the fifth inning of a baseball game at Fifth Third Field in Toledo. Carrera had 1 hit in 4 at bats. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
The temperature at Fifth Third Field for the start of Wednesday’s Mud Hens game against Columbus was just 39 degrees — and felt much colder.
It was hard for either team to hit well in that condition. And since the Hens were trying to hit off Trevor Bauer, one of the Indians’ top prospects, well, it just wasn’t a fair fight.
Bauer threw six scoreless innings, striking out nine and walking just one, to pitch the Clippers to a 3-1 victory over Toledo.
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“He’s got a good arm, no doubt,” Hens manager Larry Parrish said of Bauer. “And it seemed as if whenever we did hit it hard, it didn’t go anywhere.”
Columbus scored all the runs it would need in the first inning off Toledo starter Drew VerHagen, who struggled with his command early. He walked leadoff hitter Tim Fedroff, who then moved to third on a single by Jose Ramirez. Fedroff scored on a single by Jesus Aguilar, and Carlos Moncrief singled in Ramirez.
The Clippers eventually loaded the bases with one out before VerHagen avoided further damage with a double play.
“He’s having trouble getting the ball to the [left] part of the plate and staying on top of it,” Parrish said of VerHagen. “He was able to throw the ball to the [right] side of the plate, and he had a good breaking ball.
“But when he went outside on a right-handed hitter, he wasn’t able to stay on top of the ball — and it stayed up and stayed flat.”
After that, VerHagen settled down and allowed just one more run, which came in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Ramirez. But that was too many runs for the Hens to overcome because of Bauer, who dominated Toledo hitters despite struggling to pitch in the cold.
“It was tough because I couldn’t feel the ball in my hand,” Bauer admitted. “I felt uncomfortable a little bit because of the cold, and I didn’t have a good feel for what my body was doing half the time.
“It was a battle, but I gave the team a chance to win, and that’s my job.”
The closest the Hens came to scoring off Bauer was in the second, when Mike Hessman and James McCann singled and Ben Guez walked to load the bases with one out.
Bauer struck out Daniel Fields before Danny Worth followed with a well-struck ball to left-center. But Worth’s ball lost steam, and Matt Carson was able to track it down in front of the warning track.
“We didn’t have a lot of hard-hit balls, but that was one of them,” Parrish said of Worth’s at-bat. “And it came at the perfect time — and we didn’t get anything out of it.”
From that point Bauer was in command, even though the Hens managed to push at least one baserunner into scoring position in four different innings. Toledo was 1-for-9 when batting with a runner in scoring position with four strikeouts.
“He went out there and really did a nice job with his fastball,” Columbus manager Chris Tremie said of Bauer. “He also threw some quality curveballs and some other off-speed pitches as well.
“His breaking ball had good depth in the [strike] zone.”
The Hens also struggled with Austin Adams, who allowed just one hit in two scoreless innings, before scoring a run in the ninth off closer Mark Lowe thanks to an RBI single by Ben Guez.
But that wasn’t enough to cost Bauer his first win of the season. What’s more, Wednesday’s effort lowered his ERA to 0.75 with Columbus, and he has a 1.50 ERA for Cleveland after a solid effort against San Diego on April 9.
That stands in stark contrast to last year, when the hard-throwing right-hander was 6-7 with a 4.15 ERA in 22 starts for the Clippers while posting a 1-2 record and 5.29 ERA in four starters with the Indians.
“Last year was kind of a struggle for me personally,” Bauer said. “I didn’t perform like I wanted to perform.
“But I feel now I’m in a spot where I can compete how I want to compete.”
Will Bauer’s mix of fastballs, which sat at 94-96 mph, and breaking pitches from Wednesday’s get major-league hitters out?
“The way he threw the ball, he’s going to be tough whoever is hitting,” Tremie said.
NOTES: The Clippers will add outfielder Nyger Morgan to the roster for today’s 6:30 p.m. contest. … Hernan Perez went 0-for-4 to see a five-game hitting streak end. … McCann went 2-for-4 Wednesday and has gone 13-for-39 (.333) since an 0-for-4 start to the season.