CLEVELAND — Zach McAllister tossed 7 scoreless innings in the first game and Trevor Bauer followed his lead by limiting the San Diego Padres to an earned run and striking out a career-high eight batters in six innings in the second.
But the Indians still came away with a doubleheader split Wednesday at Progressive Field with a 2-0 victory followed by a 2-1 loss as they wrapped up the season-opening homestand.
Unlike the first time through the starting rotation, the Tribe’s young pitchers have rebounded with three consecutive impressive starts, including two Wednesday that helped the Tribe and Padres finish a three-game series in less than 24 hours.
McAllister set the tone by working quickly and attacking the Padres batters from the start, He limited them to five hits and struck out seven to pick up the win in the first game that was played in two hours and 30 minutes.
Jason Kipnis provided all the offense with a two-run home run in the sixth inning.
Cody Allen relieved McAllister (1-0, 2.31 ERA) and got the last out of the eighth inning and closer John Axford gave up a hit and a walk but struck out two to earn his fourth save.
Bauer did some quick work of his own, and the second game wrapped up in less than three hours as well. Called up from Triple-A Columbus to make the spot start, Bauer gave up two runs (one earned) in his best start as an Indian. He also worked fast, attacked hitters and showed improved maturity.
“He threw all his pitches, first time through the order he worked ahead, second time through he fell behind a few times but pitched himself back into counts,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “With his stuff and the way he’s trying to attack the zone, his progress is going to come quick.”
Bauer’s outing was strong enough to earn a win on most days. But the Tribe’s offense gave him little support. With little offensive productivity on either side, a controversial play in the first inning proved pivotal.
Everth Cabrera began the second game by reaching on a two-base error by Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Chris Denorfia followed with a shot to right field. Indians right fielder Elliot Johnson caught the ball on the warning track but dropped it while transferring it from his glove to his bare hand after crashing into the wall.
It was ruled a double but Francona challenged the call. The call was upheld despite replays appearing to indicate that Johnson made the catch. Cabrera then scored on an RBI-groundout by Seth Smith.
“We felt it was worth the challenge to see if the ball was caught,” Francona said. “I thought if anything, maybe they’d call traveling because [Johnson] took about three steps. I thought he 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. Still thought he caught the ball. I was pretty confident when they went back to look at it, they were going to call it an out.”
Johnson was still fired up about what he thought was a blatantly bad call hours later.
“I just think it lacks common sense,” Johnson said. “I caught the ball. I hit the wall with possession of the ball. I took six or seven steps … it was a catch. It was an out.”
The Indians tied the score with a run in the third inning. Yan Gomes and Asdrubal Cabrera hit back-to-back singles and Gomes scored on a sacrifice fly by Mike Aviles.
But the Padres got to Bauer again in the sixth inning, loading the bases with one out. They took the lead for good on a broken-bat base-hit to shallow left center by Chase Headley.
Despite reliever Bryan Shaw warming up, Francona stuck with Bauer, who escaped further damage by getting Yonder Alonso to foul out behind the plate and pinch hitter Yasmani Grandal to strike out on a 96-mph fastball.
As he walked of the mound, a fired-up Bauer pumped his fist and pounded his glove with his bare hand. Afterwards he admitted the outing was the best he’s felt “by far” on a major league mound.
“It was a close game and obviously a big situation,” Bauer said. “A hit there breaks it open and I’m a competitor. I was kind of in the moment. I got a big out and was pumped about it.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com.
By Stephanie Storm
©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services