CLEVELAND -- A rainout cost Zach McAllister his spot in the rotation last month. The Indians sent the pitcher back to Triple-A Columbus, asked him to swallow his pride and hoped he could work out some of the issues that plagued him earlier this season.
Against the White Sox on Saturday, things looked much brighter for McAllister.
After being promoted from Triple-A in the morning, McAllister gave the Indians a solid seven-inning outing in the afternoon. Unfortunately for Cleveland, its offense went quiet and rookie phenom Jose Abreu continued to torment the Tribe in a 6-2 loss at Progressive Field.
"I felt like I got in a good groove," McAllister said. "I made a couple bad pitches that really hurt me."
The loss column will feature McAllister's name, but this was a defeat of the tough-luck variety. The big right-hander looked in control for the first time since April, finishing with 13 outs via ground balls and just four hits scattered for the Indians (46-47). In light of the lack of run support, though, the few hits McAllister allowed was damage enough for Chicago.
McAllister (3-5) opened the season in the Indians' rotation, but landed on the disabled list in late May with a back issue, after allowing 18 runs (17 earned) over a three-start stretch (7 2/3 innings combined) from May 10-21. The righty was activated for a start against the Angels on June 18, but rain washed away the game and the schedule eliminated the need for a fifth starter.
In six starts at Triple-A this season, McAllister focused on the things under his control, going 5-0 with a 2.23 ERA over 36 1/3 innings. With the need for a starter on Saturday, McAllister had more than earned the right to get the call back to the Majors.
Indians manager Terry Francona liked what he saw from McAllister in his first start back with the Tribe.
"I thought he came out real aggressive," Francona said. "I thought he threw his fastball and he threw it in enough. When he locates his fastball, that's going to be what he does. When he's doing that, he's very effective."
In the fourth inning, McAllister issued a leadoff walk -- one of two free passes issued on the day -- to White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. That set the stage for Abreu, who drilled the first pitch he saw down the right-field line for a two-run home run. The blast gave the Cuban slugger 29 homers and 73 RBIs on the season. Five of his home runs have come against Cleveland.
"He's obviously very dangerous," Francona said of Abreu. "That's probably the understatement of the year."
Following Abreu's shot, McAllister set down the next six batters he faced in order, leading into his second setback of the contest.
Alejandro De Aza led off the sixth inning with a perfectly executed bunt down the third-base line for a single against McAllister. Moises Sierra then reached on an infield chopper that struck McAllister's glove. The pitcher induced a double-play groundout from Abreu, moving one out away from escaping further harm.
Adam Dunn then drilled a pitch from McAllister off the wall in right field for a single, scoring De Aza and putting the Indians behind, 3-0. That three-run hole felt cavernous, considering the way Cleveland's lineup was quieted by White Sox starter Scott Carroll and the Chicago bullpen.
"He threw the ball well today," said Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, referring to McAllister. "As an offense, we've got to pick him up. He kept us in the game, he had some quick innings. We just didn't capitalize on the other side today. We've got to do a better job."
Carroll spun five scoreless innings -- allowing only two hits -- but the right-hander bowed out after 78 pitches, due to stiffness in his lower back. With Carroll out of the game, the Indians did what they could to mount a comeback. But the club's rally fell short.
Cleveland came up with one run in the seventh inning, when the White Sox bullpen loaded the bases and Jason Kipnis worked a four-pitch walk against Javy Guerra to force in a run. In the eighth, Brantley belted a leadoff home run -- his 15th shot of the season -- but that was where the comeback bid ended.
The White Sox then struck for three runs in the ninth against rookie reliever Austin Adams to pad their lead and essentially seal the loss for the Indians. It seemed like a tough spot for the pitcher to make his Major League debut, but Francona wanted to get Adams (called up from Triple-A on Friday) into a game before the All-Star break.
"What I didn't want to do is let him go until next week without pitching," Francona said. "We had the bottom of the order and it was a clean inning, and it didn't work very well."
A silver lining could at least be found with McAllister's performance.
"I was extremely happy with it," McAllister said. "It's kind of what I had in mind and was hoping I was able to accomplish. Obviously, it would've been a lot better if we were able to get the 'W.' We didn't today, but again, it's a good step in the right direction."