Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Trouble with the curve: Allen's pitch unhittable

MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- There was little Brian McCann could do with the pitch. The curveball that left the fingers of Indians closer Cody Allen broke inside and the Astros catcher did what he could to fight it off. The baseball shot off McCann's bat, struck his right leg and he wound up on his back in the dirt in pain.

McCann took his time in getting to his feet, and returned to the box after a chat with a member of Houston's medical staff. One pitch later, Allen went back to his knuckle-curve, which has been the source of frustration for plenty of hitters in his overpowering April. This one dropped under McCann's bat high in the zone for a game-ending strikeout in Wednesday's 7-6 win for Cleveland.

View Full Game Coverage

CLEVELAND -- There was little Brian McCann could do with the pitch. The curveball that left the fingers of Indians closer Cody Allen broke inside and the Astros catcher did what he could to fight it off. The baseball shot off McCann's bat, struck his right leg and he wound up on his back in the dirt in pain.

McCann took his time in getting to his feet, and returned to the box after a chat with a member of Houston's medical staff. One pitch later, Allen went back to his knuckle-curve, which has been the source of frustration for plenty of hitters in his overpowering April. This one dropped under McCann's bat high in the zone for a game-ending strikeout in Wednesday's 7-6 win for Cleveland.

View Full Game Coverage

"His breaking ball right now is as good as we've seen it," Indians manager Terry Francona said, prior to Thursday's game against the Astros.

During Wednesday's four-out save, Allen used his curve to create three outs, including a pair of strikeouts to end the game. That pushed the closer's strikeout total to 17 through eight innings on the season, ranking him second among Major League relievers with 19.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Nine of those punchouts have come via the curve.

Heading into Thursday's game, Allen had held batters to an 0-for-11 showing with his curveball. Last year, batters hit .135 with a .191 slugging percentage against that pitch from the right-hander, according to Statcast™. The league averages against right-handed curves in 2016 were .215 and .347, respectively.

Tweet from @MLBastian: Hitters have gone 0-for-11 with 9 strikeouts against Cody Allen's knuckle-curve this season. Here's location of the K's. pic.twitter.com/DFjwEjTFLC

"He's got plus stuff," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's tough on righties. He's really tough on lefties with his breaking ball. It's hard to pick up. It's hard. He's got a ton of confidence in it. He's got enough velocity to keep you honest with his fastball. The entire league is punching out against him at a pretty good rate. He's doing something right."

Heading into Thursday's action, Allen ranked first among Major League relievers in Fielding Independent Pitching (-0.90), and was second in WAR (0.6 per FanGraphs.com), strikeout percentage (53.1) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (17.0). The right-hander had surrendered only one run for a 1.13 ERA through his first eight appearances.

Video: CLE@MIN: Allen escapes bases-loaded jam to notch save

It has been an extremely encouraging start for Allen, considering he and relief ace Andrew Miller were relied upon so heavily in the postseason last year. The righty logged 13 2/3 scoreless innings with 24 strikeouts in the playoffs, notching six saves along the way.

Francona also pointed out that April has traditionally been Allen's worst month. Prior to this year, the righty had a 5.26 ERA in the season's first month, compared to a 2.22 ERA in the rest of the regular-season months combined.

"In the past, it's taken him a while to find that when the season started," said Francona, referring to Allen's curveball. "April had been a pretty tough month for him in a couple years. But, his breaking ball is not just good, but consistent right now.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

Cleveland Indians, Cody Allen