Indians' Bauer returns to face Red Sox

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

(AP) -- CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer will take the mound Friday night for the first time in more than a month as the Cleveland Indians host the Boston Red Sox in the first contest of a three-game series at Progressive Field.

Both teams have clinched their respective divisions, but the game is still important for both, considering the starting pitchers: Bauer and Boston's Chris Sale. They were leading candidates for the Cy Young Award when they went on the disabled list, almost simultaneously, six weeks ago.

Bauer's last start was Aug 11, when he was hit in the right leg and suffered a stress fracture of his fibula. Sale started the next day before being placed on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation.

Friday night will be Sale's third start since he was activated off the DL. Indians manager Terry Francona said Bauer will pitch "a couple" innings, and then be relieved by Shane Bieber. The Indians' plan, if Bauer has no setbacks, is for him to start three of their 10 remaining games.

"To give him a chance to start (in the postseason), we felt he needed to have three outings, and this was the way to do it," Francona said.

Bauer will pitch Friday, Tuesday and Sept. 30, the last game of the regular season.

The hope is that Bauer will progress enough in the three starts so that he can be used as a starter in the postseason. If not, they haven't ruled out using him as a reliever.

"He gave himself a chance (to be a starter in the postseason)," Francona said, "by the way he attacked his rehab."

Prior to his injury, Bauer (12-6, 2.22 ERA) was having a career year. He hasn't lost a game since June 29. In eight starts since he is 5-0 with a 1.72 ERA, while striking out 66 batters in 52 1/3 innings, and holding opposing hitters to a .199 batting average.

In his last start, which he left after 6 1/3 innings after getting hit in the leg by a line drive off the bat of White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, Bauer gave up one run and two hits, with eight strikeouts and no walks.

Friday will be Bauer's first start against Boston this year. The last time he faced the Red Sox was a 13-6 win on Aug. 24, 2017, when he pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits, with three walks and eight strikeouts.

In two starts against Boston last year, Bauer was 2-0 with a 5.25 ERA, having allowed seven runs and 14 hits, including four home runs, in 12 innings. In five career appearances (four starts) against Boston, Bauer is 2-2 with an 8.24 ERA.

Sale has likewise struggled against Cleveland historically. In 29 career appearances (18 starts) against the Indians, he is 5-8 with a 4.78 ERA. The only team that has beaten Sale more times than the Indians is Kansas City, against whom Sale is 11-10.

In 25 starts this year, the same number as Bauer, Sale is 12-4 with a 1.92 ERA. In two starts since coming off the DL Sale has pitched four scoreless innings on two hits, with three strikeouts and no walks.

His last start against Cleveland was opposite Bauer on Aug. 24, 2017, when he pitched three innings, allowing seven runs and seven hits, with three strikeouts and three walks

Updated September 21, 2018