The presence of UCLA coach John Savage in Reno on Friday night made all the sense in the world. Especially in the world of former Bruin Trevor Bauer.
Here was Savage watching his former pupil make his 20th Minor League start of the season, and -- get this -- Bauer was being efficient. There's that word again. The knock on the 21-year-old who can throw everything but the kitchen sink toward home plate is that he's trying to be too cute, too often on the mound.
So after this outing, Bauer (as well as teammate and fellow UCLA alumnus Charles Brewer) spoke with Savage going on 10 minutes.
"He was saying it was just like old times, but he made fun of me, saying it took me 135 pitches in college to throw a complete game. And he got a lot of heat for [letting me do] it," Bauer said. "He was kind of razzing me about that."
And congratulating him, too.
For on this night, Bauer did it in 102 pitches -- with 84-degree heat and a 9 mph wind blowing out to right field at one of the toughest ballparks in one of the toughest Minor Leagues on pitchers.
The D-backs' top prospect went the distance for the first time and struck out a career-high 12 batters in Triple-A Reno's 8-2 victory over visiting Round Rock.
The game ended the Aces' six-game skid and the Express' season-high six-game winning streak.
Bauer (5-1) became the second home pitcher to throw a complete game at Aces Ballpark -- Billy Buckner, now a member of the Red Sox organization, tossed a four-hit shutout and fanned 12 on July 31, 2009 against Tacoma -- and the fifth to accomplish the feat at any locale in team history.
Bauer went 31 pro appearances at four different levels, including the bigs, without recording a "CG." He completed 10 in 16 starts during his final season at UCLA.
"It's about time," he said. "I was used to throwing complete games in college. Obviously, I don't like getting taken off the mound. There were extenuating circumstances with pitch counts and getting guys in the bullpen work in game situations, but this was really cool to finish it and shake my catcher's hand after the game."
If his first three bouts with Express batters were any indication, Bauer was in for another long night, five days after yielding five runs against Albuquerque. The right-hander gave up a single to leadoff man Julio Borbon, who advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Joey Butler's base hit to center field.
Righting himself quickly, the Aces' ace retired the next 13 hitters. He ended up allowing two runs on five hits.
"[Butler] cheated on the fastball," Bauer said. "After that, I just stopped throwing fastballs. I mixed in a lot of reverse sliders, sliders, curveballs, changeups and mixed in a fastball every now and then. But, yeah, I probably only threw 35-40 percent fastballs tonight. That's when I am most effective. If I could do that every time out, I would do that every time out."
So exactly how much of that famously deep repertoire was at his disposal?
"I had six [pitches] working," he said. "It is a byproduct of me being healthy and getting back out of the delivery that I am used to throwing out of. I am getting closer to that all the time."
Bauer rested and rehabbed his strained groin and sore knee -- the patella tendon down to his shin is irritated from overuse -- during two weeks without pitching in a game. But that doesn't mean he wasn't also sharpening his Tim Lincecum-like route toward home plate.
"My knee still nags me a little bit but doesn't bother me when I am pitching," he said. "Having that stuff cleared up between starts allows me to work on my mechanics and getting stuff back to where it needs to be instead of just trying to get healthy to make my next start, which I have been fighting since my second start of the year."
Which makes Friday night's performance all the more special. After four up-and-down starts in his first Major League shot in June and July -- and that two-week shutdown to press the reset button -- Bauer appears to have that Bauer-ness back. Even a casual observer tuning into his final inning on MiLB.TV had to take note of the tilt to his plus-plus curveball.
That's the pitch Bauer employed to fan shortstop Luis Hernandez -- the ninth different member of the Express to go down on strikes -- and, soon after, Brad Nelson to end the game.
Borbon scored Round Rock's other run by tripling to start the ninth and sprinting down the line on Butler's one-out ground ball.
Bauer has 143 strikeouts over 117 1/3 innings in the Minors this year. He recorded 11 on June 8 at Tucson.
"It's pretty cool," he said of his new career best. "I like strikeouts, that's no secret. For me, it's fun when I get the two strikes to put a guy away. The biggest thing tonight was it didn't take two or three pitches to do it. With two strikes, I put 'em away or he was out on a ball put in play, and that helped keep the pitch count down."
With his unplanned season nearing a close -- although he could help the D-backs down the stretch -- it's worth asking: Does Bauer really, finally, have his mojo back?
"It's probably unrealistic to expect to be as good as I was tonight and to throw everything for strikes the way I did tonight," he said. "It's obviously a nice goal to shoot for, but it was just good feel like I can execute stuff like I am used to executing stuff and have success doing it."
Express starter Greg Reynolds (10-8) gave up five runs on seven hits over seven innings.