Covering the Bases: Game 75

Final:

Indians 7, Orioles 2

FIRST: Following Cleveland’s convincing win over Baltimore on Thursday night, Indians manager Manny Acta had this to say about righty Zach McAllister:

“He sneaks up on people.”

Acta was referring, specifically, to McAllister’s fastball. But it was a fitting description for the pitcher as well.

Cleveland acquired McAllister in a less-than-heralded trade: a one-for-one swap that sent Austin Kearns to the Yankees in 2010. In the two seasons since, he has lurked within a laundry list of prospects and non-prospects clumped together as possible rotation options.

In Spring Training, the race for the fifth spot was all about Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Kevin Slowey. And, oh yeah, by the way, McAllister is in the mix, too.

Well, guess what? McAllister is sneaking up on us.

Gomez earned the fifth spot and flamed out with a 7.92 ERA over his past six outings, earning him a trip back to Triple-A. Meanwhile, McAllister filled in admirably in four spot starts with the Tribe and posted a 2.98 ERA in 11 turns for the Clippers. Last year, he was a solid 12-3 with a 3.32 ERA in Triple-A.

Every time McAllister came up, he knew he was likely going back down soon.

This time around, things are different. E-Z Mac is here to stay.

Not that he’s treating it that way.

“It is helpful [to know you have a little more job security],” McAllister said. “But at the same time, I also know that if I don’t do my job I can get sent down. I definitely have that type of mind-set of knowing that I have to perform. If I don’t, it’s not acceptable.”

Against the O’s, he gave up two runs (both on a homer to J.J. Hardy) on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. McAllister struck out six and walked one, improving to 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA this season.

McAllister has performed well this season and in his final two starts for Cleveland last year. In those seven big league outings, he’s gone 2-1 with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. In 41 innings, he’s given up 15 earned runs and 35 hits, while piling up 36 K versus nine walks.

And he’s impressed the Indians.

“He has given us an opportunity in all those outings that he’s had this year and the last two of last year,” Acta said. “He’s a guy that continues to make improvements, not only command of his fastball, but also his secondary pitches. He showed a good slider today.

“He sneaks up on people. His fastball just gets on top of hitters. They don’t take very good swings at it and we like the fact that he’s big and strong, one of those guys who will probably be able to handle 100-plus pitches every five days.”

The Indians sure could use that kind of consistency.

SECOND: Johnny Damon loves him some Camden Yards. Over the course of 115 games in Baltimore’s home stadium, the 38-year-old outfielder has hit .313 (149-for-476) with 22 homers and 80 RBIs. On thursday, Damon went 1-for-3 with a three-run homer that put the Indians on the board in the second inning.

Over his last 22 games, dating back to May 30, Damon has hit .290 (18-for-62) with three homers, 12 RBIs and 12 runs scored for Cleveland.

THIRD: In all, the Indians launched three home runs in the win. In fact, all nine runs scored in the game came via long balls (Damon’s three run shot, a solo shot by Shin-Soo Choo, a three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera and Hardy’s two-run blast). It was the first time Cleveland had three homers in a road game since May 15. That was also the last time the Tribe had a margin of victory of at least five runs on the road.

HOME: Middle relief has been an issue of late for the Indians, but it was a strength on Thursday night. Joe Smith turned in 1 1/3 clean innings and recently-acquired righty Esmil Rogers logged two shutout innings to close out the win. Thanks to Cabrera’s homer — which turned a 4-2 lead into a 7-2 lead in the seventh — the Tribe was able to give setup man Vinnie Pestano and closer Chris Perez a game off.

On deck:

Indians (38-37) at Orioles (41-34)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Friday at Camden Yards

–JB

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