CLEVELAND — It would be an understatement to say that the Indians’ starting rotation was struggling coming into the San Diego series. But things were able to get back on track as the Tribe took two out of three on Tuesday and Wednesday.
After Corey Kluber had a solid outing on Tuesday, Zach McAllister followed that up with 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball as the Indians took Wednesday’s first game of the doubleheader 2-0. In the nightcap, Trevor Bauer had a career-high eight strikeouts in a spot start but got the loss as the Padres held on for a 2-1 victory.
McAllister, who went only four innings and gave up three runs last Wednesday at Oakland, equaled the longest scoreless outing of his career in his second outing of the season. The right-hander gave up only five hits while striking out seven.
Here’s another thing you can say about McAllister that hasn’t been said yet this season about a starter — he was efficient. Of the 28 batters McAllister faced, the longest at-bat went six pitches and he had first-pitch strikes on 15.
"I was able to have a good mix and be aggressive in the strike zone," McAllister said. "I knew going in they were going to be aggressive and if I threw a well-located pitch I was going to be successful."
The seven strikeouts were one short of a career high. A big reason for that was because he was effective with a fastball-changeup combination. McAllister said after the game that was the most he had used his changeup in awhile but he kept going to it.
He also had confidence after seeing Kluber have a quality start on Tuesday. Before that game, Tribe starters had allowed 21 runs (19 earned) in 22 1/3 innings for a 7.66 ERA.
"Everyone is competitive and wants to do better than the guy in front of him," McAllister said. "He threw great the other night. I was able to get ahead and when he fell behind he was able to make some quality pitches."
McAllister almost looked like he might suffer the same fate that Justin Masterson did on opening night in Oakland — pitching shutout ball but no help from the offense. That changed in the sixth when Jason Kipnis hit a two-run homer to right. McAllister was on pace for a complete game but gave up back-to-back singles with two outs in the eighth. At 99 pitches (70 strikes), McAllister’s day was done as Cody Allen got the final out in the inning and John Axford came on in the ninth for the save.
As well as McAllister pitched, the more encouraging outing was from Bauer, who got the call up after Monday’s rainout. After pitching six innings for Columbus last Friday, where he gave up a run on two hits and struck out nine, the right-hander had another game that should continue to build his confidence.
Even though he got into some trouble early and saw the Padres score a run in the first, Bauer struck out six in the first three innings, including striking out the side in the second. He allowed only four hits and pair of runs (one earned) while walking two.
Francona said on Tuesday that he was impressed with the way Bauer was attacking the strike zone. He showed that throughout Wednesday’s game.
"When you see guys working fast they are feeling confident. The way he is throwing he should," Francona said. "With his stuff and the way he is trying to attack the zone his progress is going to come quick."
Bauer said going through spring training the second year with the Indians has made him more comfortable, especially in situations where he is being called up for a spot start. After striking out Yasmani Grandal to end the sixth with the bases loaded, Bauer pounded his glove in his fist and showed a little fire.
"I’m a competitor and was in the moment and pumped up," he said. "I continue to make strides and take it one day at a time. Hopefully I’ll be back up to join the team again soon."