The A's needed just a half-inning more to turn a promising Friday night into a nightmare of an evening for the Indians at Progressive Field. McAllister turned in an historically poor performance, surrendering eight runs in a disastrous second inning that sent the Tribe on its way to an 11-1 rout in the opener of this three-game series.
"Boy, the first inning, [McAllister] came out really good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He threw some of his better breaking balls that we've seen. He kind of had some power to it. And then in the second inning, he lost a feel for his offspeed, and he wasn't locating his fastball. It created, obviously, a really tough inning."
Cleveland made as many errors (two) in the field as it collected hits against A's right-hander Sonny Gray, who struck out nine and cruised through six innings with the help of a wealth of run support. It was just that kind of night for an Indians club that has lost four of its past six games and has searched for any kind of consistency all season.
Friday's first inning proved to be just a tease for Tribe fans.
McAllister took the hill for the Indians and opened the night with consecutive strikeouts of Oakland's Coco Crisp, John Jaso and Josh Donaldson. Two batters into the home half of the frame, Swisher belted the first pitch he saw from Gray deep to right field for a solo home run, marking his first blast since April 12 and third of the year.
"Early on, it just felt like one of those cold nights," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "[where] it was going to be tough to get some good swings."
The A's warmed up plenty in the top of the second.
Brandon Moss got things rolling for Oakland with a leadoff double against McAllister, who then yielded a base hit to Yoenis Cespedes and a game-tying, RBI single to Jed Lowrie. The big right-hander followed with a five-pitch walk to Derek Norris, setting the stage for the first of two home runs on the night for A's right fielder Josh Reddick.
Reddick yanked a 1-0 offering from McAllister out to right field for a towering grand slam -- the first slam against the Indians since Lorenzo Cain launched one for the Royals on July 4 of last season. After a quick mound visit from pitching coach Mickey Callaway, McAllister induced a groundout off the bat of Eric Sogard, but Oakland's onslaught was only temporarily subdued.
McAllister then walked Crisp and Jaso before watching a 3-2 pitch rocket off Donaldson's bat for a three-run shot to left field. The ball cleared the 19-foot wall in left, caromed off a cement wall behind the Home Run Porch and put Cleveland in an 8-1 hole. At that juncture, Francona made the slow walk to the mound to lift McAllister from the contest.
"In the second inning of a game," Francona said, "you want to give a guy a chance to get through it. Maybe he can gather himself. Even if you go four [innings], you're not into your bullpen in your second inning. But it just wasn't happening."
McAllister was charged with eight runs on five hits in only 1 1/3 innings for his fourth loss in his past four decisions. McAllister also now has the dubious distinction of being the first starter in Major League history (since 1914) to strike out the side in the first inning before giving up eight runs in the second, among those with no more than two innings logged.
After being promoted from Double-A Akron prior to the game, rookie lefty Kyle Crockett entered in relief of McAllister with one out in the second. Crockett issued a walk to Moss, but promptly erased the runner by inducing a double-play groundout from Cespedes.
Oakland padded its lead with another pair of home runs. Lowrie delivered a leadoff shot against Crockett in the third and Reddick launched a two-run blast off Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco in the seventh.
"I thought he was nervous, which is to be expected," Francona said of Crockett. " I thought it was good to get that first one out of the way for him and let him settle in."
Crockett assumed the roster spot that was vacated when the Indians optioned struggling starter Danny Salazar to Triple-A Columbus before the game. Carrasco, who worked the final four innings on Friday, was removed from the rotation earlier this season in favor of Josh Tomlin. With Salazar out of the picture for now, Cleveland plans on promoting Trevor Bauer from Columbus to start on Tuesday.
McAllister is the latest starting pitcher to run into some trouble.
Cleveland won each of McAllister's first four starts, in which he went 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA and .233 opponents' average across 23 2/3 innings. In his past five outings, the right-hander has gone 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA and .303 opponents' average. The Indians have lost all five of those games.
"I know I haven't pitched my best," McAllister said. "Obviously, you're going to have some peaks and valleys. Right now, I'm down, as far as the way I've been pitching lately. I know I've got to get back up to that middle ground and pitch better."
Francona delivered a message to the pitcher during Friday's loss.
"[He has] to be strong enough mentally to understand that he is a good pitcher," Francona said. "It might take a while to get that ERA to where he's comfortable, but that doesn't mean he can't win."