Sigh of relief: Tribe bullpen steps up in clutch

After McAllister gets huge strikeout, Allen navigates tricky 9th for 7th save

Sigh of relief: Tribe bullpen steps up in clutch

MINNEAPOLIS -- Zach McAllister walked off the mound, flexed and let out a shout. Given the way the previous two games played out for the Indians, the big right-hander was not about to let the gravity of the situation escape him. He was going to savor it.

With the bases loaded in the seventh inning of Wednesday's 6-5 victory over the Twins, McAllister elevated a 95-mph fastball that blew by the bat of Minnesota slugger Byung Ho Park for the frame's final out. Two days after giving up a walk-off home run to Oswaldo Arcia, McAllister stood tall for the Tribe in a game that was punctuated by a stellar showing for the bullpen.

"There's different parts throughout the game where it really matters," McAllister said, "where it can really change the momentum and everything. That was definitely one of those situations. So, to be able to kind of bear down when I needed to and make some good pitches and get the swing and miss, it was huge."

Cleveland's relief corps has been under scrutiny for much of April, but for the wrong reasons. The primary problem has existed at the back end, where setup man Bryan Shaw and closer Cody Allen have had extreme highs and lows through the season's first few weeks. Shaw breezed through the eighth inning on Wednesday night, and Allen followed with an escape act in the ninth for his seventh save.

Allen earns the save

For Allen, there was a dose of deja vu in his appearance.

In the ninth inning Tuesday night, Allen encountered the top of the Twins' order in a tie game and opted to intentionally walk Joe Mauer with first base open. That set the stage for a walk-off single for Minnesota's Miguel Sano. One game later, Allen had two outs and a runner on second base with Mauer heading to the on-deck circle. They engaged in a nine-pitch battle, which the closer won with a game-ending flyout to center.

"It's a good feeling," said Allen, who has a 6.52 ERA through 10 appearances this season. "You want to stop riding this roller-coaster I've been on for the last few weeks. It's a good feeling. It's a step in the right direction."

The Park-McAllister clash, however, was arguably the biggest situation of the game.

In the sixth inning, Park absolutely torched a misplaced cutter from Indians starter Josh Tomlin. Park showed off the powerful swing that made him a national sensation in Korea, sending the pitch rocketing over center with an exit velocity of 106.7 mph, as projected by Statcast™. It soared 441 feet from home plate and caromed off the black backdrop that looms beyond the berm behind the center-field wall.

Park's solo home run

What was Tomlin trying to do with the pitch?

"Not that," Tomlin said with a laugh.

McAllister recorded the final out in the sixth and then ran into some trouble at the outset of the next inning. Eddie Rosario led off with an infield single, setting up a sacrifice bunt attempt by Danny Santana. The Twins center fielder popped it up in front of the plate, prompting McAllister to bound off the hill before lunging and catching the ball and dropping hard to the grass.

"That's an athletic dude right there," said a smirking Allen.

McAllister's diving grab

McAllister later issued back-to-back walks to Mauer and Sano, bringing Park to the plate.

"He can do a lot of damage," McAllister said. "You saw what he did the at-bat before."

McAllister took an aggressive approach, firing nothing but fastballs in Park's direction. The first baseman swung through a 96-mph heater on a 1-0 count, drawing a collective gasp from the Target Field crowd. He then just missed on a 95-mph fastball, fouling it straight back as his audience groaned again. Two pitches later, McAllister climbed the ladder, getting the third swing he needed.

"McAllister has good stuff and a good fastball," Park said through translator J.D. Kim. "He was trying to elevate. I think the last pitch, it was just a mistake on my part."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for 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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.