Zach McAllister started Saturday’s game in the same kind of cruise control mode he’d been in during his first three starts of the season – a dominating stretch in which he’d allowed just three earned runs over 19 2/3 innings and racking up 13 strikeouts compared to three walks.
But unlike his previous trio of appearances, McAllister ran into a traffic jam of Giants runners in the fifth inning Saturday that resulted in a four-run rally and eventual 5-3 loss as the Indians dropped their second consecutive Interleague game at AT&T Park.
But on this day, the right-hander wasn’t the only one to be blamed for allowing the Giants to rally from three unanswered runs in the lengthy inning. After a stretch of retiring 12 consecutive batters, McAllister quickly found himself in a bases-loaded jam after singles by Michael Morse, Brandon Crawford and a walk by Brandon Hicks.
Pinch hitter Gregor Blanco drove in the first run with a single to right and Angel Pagan followed with a sacrifice fly to pull the Giants within a run, 3-2, but the out left McAllister needing just one more out to escape the inning without giving up the lead.
But as he tried to extricate himself from further damage by getting Hunter Pence to ground a pitch toward the hole between second and first base, second baseman Jason Kipnis failed to get to the ball as he got caught up in how to field it.
“I was planning on diving the whole time until I kind of gained ground on it,” Kipnis said. “I caught up to it and thought I could reach it. (But) it kind of caught me in-between steps and it’s one of those ones where you just don't know if you can bend down, slide or dive. I went for the reach and it scooted under my glove.”
The mental error led to a two-single by Pence, allowing the Giants to take a lead they’d never relinquish.
“That’s part of the game, (but) it happens,” McAllister said. “That’s definitely tough when you’re out there in that situation as far as the timing with another run being able to score. But at the same time, it’s part of the game. It’s not like he didn’t try to go get to it.”
It was unfortunate for the Tribe that one bad inning spelled doom after such a positive start. The Indians offense jumped out early against Giants starter Tim Lincecum for three unanswered runs, chasing the right-hander from the game after only 4 2/3 innings.
A Michael Bourn double to start the game and Kipnis one-out RBI single gave the Indians an early 1-0 advantage in the first inning.
McAllister recorded his first career hit in the second inning off Linecum to put two men on base. But Lincecum got Bourn to ground out and end the threat and keep the deficit at one run.
After just the first two innings, McAllister had already racked up four strikeouts – including three called.
Although second baseman Hicks made a nice diving play to his left to nab Kipnis at first in the third inning, the groundout scored Nick Swisher and gave the Tribe a 2-0 lead.
Later in the fifth inning, Swisher's second double of the game scored Bourn, who led off the fifth with a single as the top-of-the-oder duo combined to pad the Indians lead to three unanswered runs.
In his brief outing, Lincecum dished up nine hits and walked two, the patient Indians hitters forcing him to throw 98 pitches before getting a chance to complete the fifth inning. Despite McAllister being much more efficient with his pitches with 75 through five innings, Indians manager Terry Francona saw that he was starting to leave his pitches up and opted to go to the bullpen the rest of the way.
“Early on his fastball had so much life to it and he was commanding it,” Francona said. “ He just didn’t command it as well in the fifth. He wasn't missing by a lot (but) he really didn’t have a good feel for his secondar pitches like he has in his last three starts.
Reliever C.C. Lee took over to start the sixth inning, but was greeted rudely by Giants catcher Buster Posey, who launched a full-count home run into the left field bleachers for a final insurance run.