CLEVELAND -- Through two batters on Wednesday night, Cody Allen did not looked fixed, but the Tribe's late-inning reliever was surviving. Working in the seventh inning against the Twins, Allen created a flyout off the bat of Willians Astudillo and then followed that up with a strikeout against Joe Mauer.
Then, Allen's season-long struggles returned in swift and damaging fashion.
In a 4-3 loss to the Twins at Progressive Field, Allen allowed the game's decisive runs in a four-batter stretch with two outs that put his issues on full display. Cleveland's all-time saves leader has labored to command his curveball while elevating his fastball. That combination has forced manager Terry Francona to find spots other than the ninth to get the righty work.
"We were looking for a spot today to win," Francona said. "We can only match up so much. So, I was hoping Cody could come in, and he and [Brad] Hand would maybe finish it out. And the way it started, I thought we had a chance to do that."
With the Indians clinging to a 3-2 lead in the seventh, Francona handed the ball to Allen. After the first two outs, Allen issued a walk to John Forsythe, prompting a quick chat with catcher Yan Gomes. Next was Eddie Rosario, who hit a fastball up and out of the zone to center for a single.
Miguel Sano stepped up to the plate and watched four pitches -- two fastballs and two knuckle-curves -- all of which were elevated and out of the zone. Sano dropped his bat and headed to first base with a walk to load the bases. Indians pitching coach Carl Willis trotted to the mound to discuss the situation with Allen.
"Five pitches in, he had two quick outs," Francona said. "And then he lost the plate."
After that brief intermission, Allen worked ahead of Robbie Grossman, bringing the count to 1-2 before firing another fastball up in the strike zone. The Twins outfielder pulled it through the hole on the right side of the infield for a base hit, scoring two runs to put the Twins ahead, 4-3. On the play, Sano was cut down at third on a 9-3-5 relay to end the inning.
"I didn't make pitches," Allen said. "I didn't make any good pitches that whole inning. I was able to get two quick outs, and I just couldn't get that third out. We've seen this year -- myself and our bullpen at times as a whole -- that third out can be kind of elusive. And for me, personally, that's just how it is right now."
That sequence sent rookie starter Adam Plutko to a no-decision after a solid showing for the American League Central-leading Indians (75-57). Plutko limited the Twins to two runs over 5 1/3 innings, allowing a solo shot to Astudillo in the third and an RBI double to Rosario in the fifth.
Complicating matters for the Tribe was a relatively quiet night for the offense, which managed just three runs against Twins righty Kohl Stewart in his 4 2/3 innings. Yonder Alonso and Melky Cabrera contributed an RBI single apiece in the first, and slugger Edwin Encarnacion added a go-ahead RBI double in the fifth.
With his latest lapse, Allen has now allowed six runs on nine hits in his last five appearances, which include four innings of work. The right-hander has posted a 7.20 ERA in 20 innings across his past 20 outings for the Tribe.
"Fortunately, I'm on a really, really good team," Allen said. "And we're in a spot where we can afford to [approach this] maybe where I do pitch in some situations that aren't necessarily where I would normally pitch, to try and get me going in the right direction."
Allen's rough showing came a few hours after the Indians announced that relief ace Andrew Miller was placed on the disabled list for the third time this season. Miller is currently dealing with an impingement in his shoulder, but the lefty called it a "minor setback" following the loss to the Twins.
Two years ago, Miller and Allen shouldered a heavy load in October, helping the Indians reach the World Series. If they want to recreate that postseason formula -- with Hand also playing a key role in the late innings -- Miller needs to get back to full strength and Allen must right the mechanical flaws ailing his effectiveness.
"That's the plan," Allen said. "It's all about just going out there and producing. And it's getting to a spot where you can go out there on a daily basis and do it. We'll wash out tonight and show up tomorrow ready to go."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dynamic duo: Following his single in the first inning, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor stole second base, giving him 20 steals on the season. In turn, Lindor joined Jose Ramirez as the second Tribe player to have at least 20 homers and 20 steals this year. Bobby Bonds and Toby Harrah (1979) are the only other Indians teammates to achieve that feat in the same season. Per the Indians, Lindor and Ramirez are the first pair of infield teammates in MLB history to have 25-plus homers and 20-plus steals apiece in the same season.
Oliver's escape: The Twins had the makings of a rally in the sixth, when Grossman sent a pitch from Plutko to right-center field. Tribe right fielder Cabrera made a diving attempt, but the ball bounced off his glove and dropped in play, giving Grossman a double. Grossman then advanced to third on a flyout by Christopher Austin. Lefty Oliver Perez took over and kept the tying run at third by inducing a groundout off the bat of Jake Cave and finishing off the frame with a strikeout of Ehire Adrianza.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With two outs and runners on the corners in the ninth, Tribe sidearmer Adam Cimber got Austin to chop a pitch up the third-base line. Ramirez charged in, grabbed the ball with his bare hand and fired it across the diamond on the run. Austin was called safe, but the Indians challenged the ruling. After a replay review, the ruling was overturned, taking a run off the board for the Twins.
HE SAID IT
"I'm sure it's not at an all-time high. That's part of the game. He's going through a tough time. He'll work and, for us to get to where we want to go, we need him real bad. So, we'll work with him." -- Francona, on Allen's confidence
With his 3-for-5 showing on Wednesday, Rosario improved his season slash line to .360/.415/.667 in 18 games against the Indians this season. His 27 hits are the most against Cleveland in a single season since 2013, when Victor Martinez had 28 hits against the Tribe.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger (9-7, 3.30 ERA) is slated to start for the Tribe on Thursday, when the Indians host the Twins at 1:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field, exclusively on Facebook. Clevinger has a 2.81 ERA over his last seven turns. The Twins will counter with righty Jake Odorizzi (5-8, 4.38).