CLEVELAND — Starting pitching was at a premium for the Indians in their doubleheader against San Diego on Wednesday. Unfortunately for Cleveland, its hitters weren’t able to follow the lead.
Though they got quality outings from starters Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer, the Indians were only able to earn a split, winning the opener 2-0 and dropping the second game 2-1.
Cleveland managed only 11 hits on the day with Jason Kipnis providing the lone RBI hit — a two-run home run that scored the only runs in the opener.
McAllister turned in one of the rotation’s finest efforts of the season in Game 1, allowing five hits, while striking out seven over 7⅔ innings.
McAllister earned his first win, retiring 21 of the 24 hitters he faced through seven innings. He got the first two outs in the eighth before allowing consecutive singles and being removed.
“He was really good,” manager Terry Francona said of McAllister. “He came out of the bullpen with a good change-up and he pretty much used it the entire game. It was probably as good a change-up as we’ve seen all season, and he established it early in the game and he threw it to his fastball and located it.”
“I haven’t thrown that many change-ups in a long time,” he said. “I had a lot of confidence in it today and I was able to use it the way I wanted to.
“I feel like this year that I have a little bit better stuff than I had last year. I was just able to have a really good mix today.”
The same could be said of Bauer, who was promoted from Triple-A Columbus to make a spot start.
The right-hander looked like a different pitcher than the one the Indians saw last year, allowing two runs (one earned) and four hits, while striking out a career-high eight over six innings.
Bauer struck out six over the first three innings and retired 12 of the 13 hitters he faced during a span from the first to fifth innings.
“With his stuff and the way he’s trying to attack the zone, his progress is going to come quick,” Francona said. “There were a lot of encouraging things. He was working quick. When you see guys working quick, they’re obviously feeling confident. He should be. The way he throws the ball, he should be confident. He did a really good job.”
Bauer said it was by far the most comfortable he has felt on a major league mound.
“It felt good to pitch well and give the team a chance to win,” Bauer said. “It was another start in the process. I definitely feel comfortable over here.”
The Padres generated their first run of the game in bizarre fashion.
Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had a throwing error, allowing the first batter of the game, Everth Cabrera, to reach. The next batter, Chris Denorfia, sent a fly ball to right field that Elliot Johnson appeared to catch. Johnson took a few steps after the catch, then dropped the ball as he went to throw it to the infield.
First base umpire Bob Davidson ruled the play a hit, advancing Cabrera to third base and crediting Denorfia with a double. Francona requested a replay but that failed to overturn the call, thanks to MLB’s new interpretation of the transfer rule, which says the fielder “shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.”
The following batter, Seth Smith, grounded out to score a run that came back to haunt the Indians.
“I thought if anything, maybe they’d call traveling. He took a few steps,” joked Francona of the Johnson play. “I know they’re going to enforce that rule more this year, but I thought he still caught it. He went back and then came forward, but I also know they’re going to enforce that differently than they have in the past. I still thought he caught the ball.
“They’re still working through things. But, again, I was pretty confident when they went to look at it that they were going to call it an out.”
Johnson wasn’t pleased with the call or the new interpretation.
“It just seems like it lacks a lot of common sense,” Johnson said. “I caught the ball, I hit the wall with possession of the ball. I took six-seven steps. It was a catch. It was an out. Let’s move on. To me, there needs to be more clarification. I realize they’re enforcing the rule to the letter. Let’s just get some common sense. It can get ridiculous. It can get out of hand.
“I made a good baseball move with two feet in and possession of the ball, so I felt like it was a catch.”