Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Despite what you might think, despite what you might hope and despite what you may have been yelling at the TV or the words you were hurling toward the pitcher, Trevor Bauer is not dumb.
He knows exactly what he is doing.
“They’re going to hate me,” the newest villain in Giants world told Los Angeles media after the Giants’ 2-1 loss to the Dodgers at Oracle Park on Friday night. “Why not lean into it?”
“Do you expect anything else from Trevor?” said Alex Wood, the Giants’ starter and a former Reds teammate of Bauer’s. “Of course he’s leaning into it.”
He leaned until his nose was grazing the “Vax up!” chalk just off the first-base line.
Bauer made both a hell of an impression and a hellish impression in his Giants-Dodgers debut, going full wrestling heel and riling up a crowd whose loathing grew as the night wore on. Gone is Yasiel Puig, and gone are Clayton Kershaw’s hard-to-hate Dodgers. Welcome to the Bauer Era.
It is easier to hate opponents who are good, and Bauer is that. In all, he went 6 1/3 innings on 126 pitches — not a typo — in which he allowed two accidental hits, struck out 11 and whose only throwing mistake came to first base and not home plate. The Giants only scored in the sixth, when two walks created traffic, and Evan Longoria hit a comebacker that Bauer knocked down, chased after, then tossed wildly into right field.
And yet, it was not his pitching nor his error that fans will remember. They will remember another Longoria at-bat, when Bauer believed he had struck out the third baseman and began strutting — and continued strutting — halfway to the foul line. Then he looked up, saw home-plate ump Chris Guccione called it a ball, glared, circled the mound and cranked up the antics meter.
A batter later, he struck out Alex Dickerson, who couldn’t hold up, and Bauer dramatically grabbed at an invisible sword and sheathed it.
I guess the Giants broadcast team isn't a fan of the Trevor Bauer sword celebration 😬 pic.twitter.com/OBn99KFR3f
— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) May 22, 2021
“I’m sure that Giants fans will love to hate Trevor, and he’ll love that they hate him,” Wood said, succinctly. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot more battles to come this year.”
Wood was not bad — he made one mistake in six innings, a two-run shot to Chris Taylor, who he said was sitting on his slider — but was not as dominant or, uh, polarizing as his opponent.
After 113 pitches, Bauer emerged from the Dodgers dugout for the seventh. He did not last but did manage to record another out before he was pulled, and the ending of his outing came with exclamation points and not periods.
Most of a season-high 12,753 were on their feet and showering him with boos, and he embraced it as if they were showering him with booze. He cupped his ear, as if saying he could not hear them; he threw his arms up, as if luxuriating in it.
— KNBR (@KNBR) May 22, 2021
The fans were livid. The Giants?
“Part of the game,” Gabe Kapler said.
“I didn’t really pay attention to any of the theatrics,” Brandon Belt said. “I was really just paying attention to his pitches and trying to put them in play.”
Wood embraced it, but he is a former teammate. Bauer gives off the impression he’s beloved by his own and despised by the others.
It was game one of 19 between the Giants and Dodgers this year, and Bauer will be seen again — and soon. If the Dodgers stay on turn, he would be starting Thursday in Los Angeles, the first game of the second Giants-Dodgers series of the year.
And Dodgers fans will cheer him, perhaps with some extra oomph, because of how he treated Giants fans. Bauer is an act, but it is not a dumb one.