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Opinion: Trevor Bauer conquers Coors Field in dazzling debut with Los Angeles Dodgers

Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY
·6 min read
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DENVER — This is baseball’s graveyard for pitchers.

Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies since 1995, has a history of chewing up and spitting out Hall of Famers and Cy Young winners.

This house of horrors couldn’t wait to wrap its hands around the new rich kid on the block from Los Angeles.

Well, if Trevor Bauer’s Dodger debut Friday night at Coors was any indication, the National League West is in a whole heap of trouble.

Don’t let the final box score from the Dodgers’ 11-6 victory, or Bauer’s final pitching line (6⅓ innings, three hits, four runs and 10 strikeouts), fool you.

He was better than that.

Much, much better.

Really, almost historically better.

Bauer, the reigning National League Cy Young winner, resurrected memories of the historic Sept. 17, 1996 evening when Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo threw the only no-hitter in the history of Coors Field.

For six brilliant innings, it sure looked like Bauer would pitch the second one, strutting off the mound inning after inning, glaring at a few of his strikeout victims, and looking as relaxed as if he was playing whiffle ball in his backyard.

Trevor Bauer walks off the mound in the fifth inning of his Los Angeles Dodgers debut at the Colorado Rockies' Coors Field.
Trevor Bauer walks off the mound in the fifth inning of his Los Angeles Dodgers debut at the Colorado Rockies' Coors Field.

He not only had a no-hitter through six innings, striking out nine, but was getting stronger as the night went on. Ryan McMahon’s fly ball in the second inning was the last time the Rockies even hit the ball out of the infield before the seventh.

“We were aware of it, for sure,’’ said Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. “It was fun to be behind him and it was fun to watch what he could do.’’

Well, then by sheer accident, just like some of the great inventions in American history, the Rockies may have discovered the best way to overcome Bauer’s brilliance.

The dude despises hitting, so you may want to make sure he gets on base. Bauer was stuck on the basepaths for about 10 minutes in the top of the seventh after his sacrifice bunt and a fielding error, and when he took the mound in the bottom of the inning, he wasn’t the same pitcher, looking fatigued.

Trevor Story ended his no-hitter with a sharp single to left field on Bauer’s first pitch. Two pitches later, Charlie Blackmon ended his shutout with a two-run homer. Then Bauer walked C.J. Cron. And then McMahon homered.

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Bauer stayed for one more batter, striking out Garrett Hampson, and then walked off the field in a daze.

Welcome to the mile-high altitude of Coors Field, where fatigue can hit you when you least expect it.

“There might be something to that, I don’t think we can kind of guard against it,’’ Dodgers manager David Roberts said. “But pitchers aren’t used to being out there, there’s the altitude. There’s that routine pitchers typically have between innings, he didn’t have it.

“I know Trevor’s not going to make any excuses, but certainly that next inning, we saw what happened.’’

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Bauer, after being the first to run onto the field in the sixth inning, and the last one to emerge from the dugout in the seventh, called his lengthy stay on the basepaths a non-factor.

He says he never thought about his no-hitter, and unless he happens to strike out all 27 batters, a no-hitter involves luck.

He doesn’t even buy into the notion that Coors Field is a nightmare for pitchers.

“I think a lot of guys beat themselves up mentally,’’ he said, “before they take the mound.’’

Still, he’s beginning to understand a little bit of the strangeness of this joint.

Where else can the Dodgers produce 31 hits and score 16 runs in two games but not have a homer?

“Come on media,’’ Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said, “you should love this. We’re not sitting back and relying on the homer.’’

Where else can the game be stopped in the eighth inning by a huge stray cat scampering into the outfield, taking a nap in center field, and scurrying around again with the crowd of 20,363 loving it?

“No,’’ Roberts said, “he’s not our rally cat.’’

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And where else can you surrender four home runs in one inning, equaling a Rockies’ franchise record, and still win?

Coors Field, baby.

Bauer says he’ll sit back and reflect on his first Dodgers’ victory, study the video, and enjoy at least the first six innings, and then try to figure out just what went wrong in the seventh.

“I didn’t have a chance to break down the video,’’ Bauer said. “We’re not allowed to watch video during the game. New Astros’ rules, or something like that.’’

Aw, nothing like an Astros’ dig to round out the night.

So, go ahead, Bauer says, let everyone else be intimidated about the altitude. He can’t wait for a return visit to Denver.

He walks away knowing the Rockies were overmatched by his 92-95-mph fastball.

They were clueless on his 81-mph slider.

Left off-balance by his 85-mph cutter.

And had them guessing on his curveball.

He wound up generating 15 swings-and-misses.

“He was in control,’’ Roberts said, “the entire game.’’

If this was a snapshot of what Bauer has in store the rest of the season, this might be the best $102 million the Dodgers ever spent.

Besides, after watching his teammates score as many runs in the first six innings (eight) as the Reds scored in any game for him the entire season last year, Bauer sure can get used to his new surroundings. After all, the Reds scored three or fewer runs in eight of his 12 regular-season and postseason starts.

Life as a Dodger has officially begun, and Bauer's premier left the legion of Dodgers fans at Coors Field screaming all game, letting the NL West know there’s a new sheriff in town.

He’s capable of shutting down anyone. Anywhere. And as he showed Friday, in the unlikeliest of all places.

He conquered Coors Field.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trevor Bauer takes no-hitter vs. Rockies into seventh in Dodgers debut