CLEVELAND — Apparently Cody Allen can’t pitch prior to the ninth inning either.
Removed from the primary closer role after a season’s worth of struggles, Allen still found a way to blow a lead, allowing the go-ahead runs in the seventh inning of a 4-3 loss to the Twins at Progressive Field on Wednesday night.
Allen retired the first two batters he faced before walking one, allowing a hit, walking another and surrendering a two-run single to right field from former Cleveland spring training invitee Robbie Grossman.
“I don’t think it’s always one thing every game,” manager Terry Francona said of Allen’s consistent struggles. “Tonight, he didn’t command very well after he got to the second out. I think there’s been nights when he doesn’t have a real good feeling for his breaking ball. All of a sudden you’re a one-pitch pitcher, so you better command like crazy.
“He was five pitches in and he had two quick outs. And then he lost the plate and he just started to have command issues. He jumped ahead and just didn’t get a fastball in enough on the last hitter.”
“I just didn’t make pitches,” Allen said. “Even those first guys, the quality pitches weren’t great. I didn’t make really any good pitches that whole inning, but I was able to get two quick outs. I just couldn’t get that third out.
“We’ve seen this year, myself and our bullpen at times as a whole, that third out can be kind of elusive, and for me that’s just how it is right now.”
Allen entered the night sporting a hefty 4.42 ERA over 56 appearances. He’s been especially ineffective over his last five games (four innings), allowing six runs on nine hits and five walks.
“It’s extremely frustrating, but the only thing I can do is show up (today) and try to be better, just keep working, keep grinding,” Allen said. “We’ll wash out tonight and show up (today) and be ready to go.
“It can be difficult, but that’s part of the job. You’ve got to make adjustments on the fly and the guys who consistently year in and year out pitch well are the ones who do it the best. Fortunately, I’m on a really, really good team and we’re in a spot where we can afford to pitch me in some situations that aren’t necessarily where I would normally pitch to try to get me going in the right direction.”
“He’s going through a tough time,” Francona said. “He’ll work, and for us to get where we want to go, we need him really bad, so we’ll work with him.”
Allen’s effort deprived Indians starter Adam Plutko of notching his first win since June 24.
Plutko allowed two runs, only one through four innings on a leadoff home run from No. 9 hitter Willians Astudillo, the first career homer for the backup catcher.
He allowed the Twins to tie the game at 2 on doubles from Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario in the fifth inning.
“He battled. He really battled,” Francona said of Plutko, who allowed five hits, walked two and struck out five over 51⁄3 innings. “I thought he got away with a couple pitches, but he did a pretty good job. He gave us a chance to win.”
Cleveland scored twice in the opening inning on back-to-back singles from Yonder Alonso and Melky Cabrera off Kohl Stewart, who was making his fourth career start.
But Stewart didn’t allow another run until Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out RBI double in the fifth chased the right-hander and put the Indians in front 3-2.
The Indians went quietly in the ninth inning, with Twins right-hander Trevor Hildenberger retiring the side in order — getting Francisco Lindor to ground to second for the final out.
Lindor stole his 20th base in the first inning to join third baseman Jose Ramirez in reaching the 20-homer, 20-stolen base plateau. They are the second pair of teammates in franchise history to do it, joining Bobby Bonds and Toby Harrah in 1979.
Lindor and Ramirez are the first pair of infielders in MLB history to hit 25 or more homers and steal 20 or more bases in a season.
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