Allen delivers again with impressive 4-out save
Closer continues rebound from rough April, gets out of nail-biter 9th
DETROIT -- It never fails. No matter how the starting pitcher performs and no matter how Indians manager Terry Francona manipulates his bullpen, it seems like Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is always due to hit in the ninth inning against the Tribe.
Tribe closer Cody Allen is then tasked with traversing the tightrope.
"It shakes out like that quite a bit," Allen said.
On Saturday, Allen's outing was not devoid of drama, but Cleveland's stopper completed an impressive four-out save to seal a much-needed 5-4 victory over Detroit at Comerica Park. The hard-throwing closer's showing was the latest in a string of successful outings that have helped push his rough April farther in the rear-view mirror.
It is never a comfortable feeling for Cleveland to have Cabrera looming in a close game. The Tribe's tension is eased somewhat knowing Allen is on quite a roll.
"I think we all knew he just had to settle in," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's so good at what he does. He competes. There's a reason why you're patient with guys like that, because you know they're good."
The save was the 14th of the season for Allen, who looks to have moved on from his abysmal April.
A pair of four-run disasters paved the way for an 18.00 ERA for Allen through his first five appearances of the season. Since his last blown save on April 20, though, the right-hander has spun a 1.96 ERA with a .192 opponents' average and 11 saves in 11 chances. Over his past eight games, Allen has given up no runs, piled up 12 strikeouts and issued only two walks in 8 1/3 innings.
Clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth on Saturday, Francona handed the ball to Allen after Jose Iglesias flared a pitch from setup man Bryan Shaw into right field for a two-out single. Detroit's Anthony Gose proceeded to collect a base hit to left against Allen, but the closer recovered with a swinging strikeout of Rajai Davis, who chased a curveball in the dirt.
That set the stage for a nail-biter of a ninth.
Due to bat second in the inning was Cabrera, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, including an RBI hit in the first. On the season, Detroit's first baseman has hit .633 (19-for-30) with four home runs and 14 RBIs in eight games against Cleveland. On Friday night, Cabrera belted a homer and accounted for all four of the Tigers' runs.
Allen's attention, however, was on the first batter due up in the ninth.
"First of all, I'm just trying to get [Ian] Kinsler out," Allen said. "I'm trying to just focus on Kinsler and get him out, because you really don't want a lot of people on base when [Cabrera] is up there trying to do damage."
Mission accomplished: Allen struck out Kinsler.
Cabrera quickly fell into an 0-2, but he watched a 95-mph heater sail extremely high for a ball. On the 1-2 pitch, Allen fired a 96-mph fastball and Cabrera offered at the pitch, appearing to break the plane with his bat before finishing his swing. The Comerica Park crowd reacted with delight as first-base umpire Joe West called it a check-swing ball.
"That was not a check swing. That was a full swing," Francona said. "That would've hurt. That would've been really tough. He's such a good hitter that when you get him out, you need to take it. You don't want to give him second chances."
Cabrera eventually drew a walk, and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a single to shallow right, putting runners on the corners with one out. The decibel level in Detroit's home park rose, but the stadium was quickly quieted when Allen induced a game-ending double play groundout off the bat of J.D. Martinez.
Shortstop Mike Aviles gloved the grounder, stepped on second and relayed it to first baseman Carlos Santana, who pumped his fist hard as he came off the bag.
Never in doubt? Hardly.
"Any team, with a one-run lead and Miguel Cabrera at the plate," Indians outfielder David Murphy said, "is going to feel a little bit uneasy in the dugout. It was awesome that we finished it off right there."