McAllister arms Indians in shutout of Athletics

Righty goes 7 2/3 scoreless as sacrifice fly provides winning margin

McAllister arms Indians in shutout of Athletics

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona sat inside the interview room on Tuesday night, attempting to answer questions over the rap music that blared from inside the team's clubhouse across the hall. He allowed himself to smirk.

Under the circumstances, Francona did not mind the celebratory inconvenience.

"I'm not necessarily sure I like the words to that song," Francona said. "But I like when it's playing."

With wins comes loud music, and the Tribe has had its playlist on repeat lately. The Indians' latest victory was of the 1-0 variety over the A's at Progressive Field, where right-hander Zach McAllister paved the way to the win column with a stellar performance. Cleveland's potent lineup took a breather, giving the rotation a night in the spotlight.

The Indians (16-14) have pieced together eight wins in their past nine games, pounding out at least six runs in each of the previous seven victories. Hidden beneath the pile of runs recently scored by the Indians, however, has been a string of solid pitching performances.

McAllister was detemined to keep that trend going.

"It's exciting," McAllister said. "Every one of us wants to go out there and pitch better than the guy in front of them. It's a friendly competition."

McAllister (3-3, 2.63 ERA) followed Ubaldo Jimenez's solid showing on Monday (5 2/3 innings and two runs allowed) by blanking the A's over 7 2/3 superb frames. The big right-hander had strong command of his fastball, kept hitters honest with his slider and mixed in a few splitters, which is a pitch he has been fine-tuning this season.

Oakland (18-16), which is tied with the Astros for the most offensive shutouts (four) this season, never had a runner in scoring position in the ballgame. Only once against McAllister -- Derek Norris in the third inning -- did the A's have a hitter work into a 2-0 count. The Tribe starter finished with 111 pitches, five singles surrendered, four strikeouts and one walk.

"He ran the game," Francona said.

In the season's first 21 games, the Indians' starting staff went a combined 5-13 with a bloated 5.72 ERA. Things have changed dramatically over the past nine games, dating back to Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Royals on April 28. Since then, Cleveland's rotation has combined to go 7-1 with a 2.50 ERA (16 earned runs in 57 2/3 innings).

"I think every team looks good when it goes like that," said Indians closer Chris Perez, who collected his fourth save in the win. "We knew coming out of Spring Training what we'd have to do to be a successful team. We knew we had a pretty good offense on paper. We knew our bullpen should be fine.

"It was going to be the starters. We needed one or two of them to step up and I think Mac has definitely done that. He's answered the bell. Tonight, he was phenomenal."

If the box score allowed it, Indians catcher Yan Gomes might also be credited with a save.

In the ninth inning, A's center fielder Yoenis Cespedes reached base with a one-out single off Perez and then tried to steal second base. Gomes caught the closer's pitch and sprung from his crouch, firing a perfect throw to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera at second base for a critical out.

"That was one of the better throws," Francona said. "He got a good pitch to throw and he came out like he wanted to throw him out. That's impressive."

Perez said Gomes' throw changed the entire strategy of the game's conclusion.

Gifted with a second out, Perez needed just one more strike to seal the victory. Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss swung through a 93-mph fastball from the closer to end the game.

"In a one-run game, there's one or two plays that stick out," Perez said. "[Gomes' throw] was a huge one. That obviously changed the whole inning. ... It was a laser. Right on the bag. Right on the money."

The Indians' offense went quiet against Oakland left-hander Tommy Milone (3-4), who allowed just the one unearned run and finished with five strikeouts, no walks and five hits allowed. The one run represented the fewest for the Indians since the club was blanked by the Royals in the first game of the April 28 twin bill.

Fortunately for the Tribe, McAllister did not require much support.

In the fifth inning, Carlos Santana chopped a pitch from Milone to Moss, who bobbled the grounder for an error. On the play, second baseman Eric Sogard gloved the ball, but made an errant throw toward first base, allowing Santana to easily advance to second. Three batters later, Gomes brought Santana home with a sacrifice fly to put the A's down, 1-0.

The way McAllister pitched, that was all the Tribe needed to crank the volume on the clubhouse stereo.

"We had a sac fly," Francona said, "and you hear the music playing."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.