'Great effort': Allen works past shaky start

September 7th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- His pitching line may have induced some flashbacks to his starts from the beginning of the season, but Indians hurler is confident he’s in a much better place than he was just months ago -- even if the stats aren’t the most attractive.

Allen had his shakiest outing since he was brought back up to the big leagues last month, giving up five runs on eight hits through 5 1/3 innings in the Indians' 5-2 loss to the Twins on Monday night at Progressive Field. But the southpaw seemed confident that this wasn’t an indication of a regression.

“I feel like I’m head and shoulders above where I was before,” Allen said. “I would look back at the beginning of this year, after how the first inning went … it probably would’ve been an early exit for me. 2 1/3 [innings] would’ve shut down and changed my plan a little bit, whereas now, I’m sticking to my plan. I’m attacking and doing what I can to keep the team in the ballgame.”

Allen got the results he was looking for in the first inning, forcing a ground ball that found its way deep in the hole between short and third -- a ball that shortstop Amed Rosario was able to field, but could not get across the diamond in time to record the out. Then, line drives by Jorge Polanco, who went 4-for-5 on the night, and Rob Refsnyder plated two runs for the Twins just minutes after first pitch.

“First pitch of the game was a sinker, which was a pitch they hadn’t seen all year that I put in toward the last couple months, been putting back in my repertoire,” Allen said. “Threw a really good one to start the game, exactly what we wanted, ground ball -- just Buxton is a phenomenal player. He put it where they weren’t. That first inning, they just put balls -- they hit ‘em where they weren’t.”

It’s a problem that Allen has become accustomed to running into. Since the beginning of the season, the lefty has had more trouble against hitters the first time he faces them and tends to settle in the deeper he gets into his outings. After the Twins collectively went 4-for-9 in their first plate appearances on Monday, opposing hitters have now hit .351 against Allen in their first plate appearances against him.

Staying true to that trend, Allen did start to settle in more as the night went on. But he did give up two long balls to Buxton and Polanco and was charged with another run after he was pulled in the sixth. But the biggest difference with Allen this time around was that he was able to grind his way into the sixth inning, even when the results weren’t in his favor.

“I’m very happy with him sticking around that long,” acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. “I just thought with our bullpen a little bit short today, I had to stick with him a little bit longer and he was pitching good. … I thought it was a great effort, considering.”

Allen had a stellar performance on Aug. 27 and another solid effort on Sept. 1, but he had little to show for it, failing to factor into the decision in either outing. Now, his record falls to 0-1 since he rejoined the big league club. In his only two starts against the Twins in his career, Allen has given up 11 earned runs in 6 2/3 frames, and both times, Polanco gave him headaches.

It wasn’t the performance he was hoping he’d have in order to continue the momentum he had been building, but it was still enough to prove he’s in a better place on the rubber than he was months ago, particularly when he was able to work into the sixth in his third straight trip to the mound. Prior to this most recent callup, Allen hadn’t worked beyond the fifth in any of his previous seven starts with the Indians this year.

How Aaron Civale’s return to the big league team on Tuesday impacts Allen’s role for the remainder of the season is undetermined. The club could choose to lean on six starters to get through the final four weeks, or Allen could be moved into the bullpen. Regardless, he’s put himself in a position to prove that he still has the potential to be much better than he was at the beginning of the season and he wants to continue to show that he belongs in the Majors moving forward.

“I think I’ve done a much better job of controlling the things that I can control and just competing and really understanding that my stuff plays,” Allen said. “My stuff plays regardless of the score tonight, regardless of how many hits they had, homers, whatever it was. It’s just one of those days where you tip your cap.”