Allen shows knack for ninth-inning effectiveness

Allen shows knack for ninth-inning effectiveness

ARLINGTON -- Cody Allen has been seeing more and more of the ninth inning of late. Following his sixth save of the season on Sunday, the Indians reliever was asked if he was getting used to handling some of the closing duties.

"Yeah," Allen said. "We'll see how this plays out."

Allen was referring to the fact that Cleveland does not have a specified closer at the moment. After removing John Axford from that role on May 10, Indians manager Terry Francona named Allen, Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison and Marc Rzepczynski as options for the ninth, indicating that their usage would depend on game situations.

Francona has stuck to that approach, though Allen has seen most of the save opportunities during Cleveland's recent stretch of close games. Dating back to May 30, each of Allen's five appearances have included no hits allowed and a save collected. That represents the longest such streak in Indians history, trailing only Jose Mesa, who had six no-hit saves in six straight outings in September of 1995.

Allen has a 2.70 ERA with six saves and 33 strikeouts through 26 2/3 innings (31 games). Entering Monday, the hard-throwing righty had a 0.69 ERA (one earned run in 13 innings) with 16 strikeouts and two walks in save situations and a .162 opponents' batting average when pitching in the ninth inning.

Francona reiterated Monday that Cleveland still has not reached a point where Allen is considered the team's closer.

"No, I think that one of the strengths of our bullpen is actually not doing that," Francona said. "It's pitching guys when they best fit."

Francona then noted that Allen has been particularly good against left-handed hitters (.386 OPS against), while Shaw has been very strong against righties (.355 OPS against). The same applies to the left-handed Rzepczynski (.311 OPS against left-handed batters) and the right-handed Atchison (.478 OPS agianst righties).

"We try to let them face the most amount of guys [who match up well]," Francona said, "or, if we're trying to put an inning out, who could best put it out? And then we go from there."

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.