CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians have been looking for a strong performance from a starting pitcher. Zach McAllister provided it on Wednesday.
McAllister pitched 7 2-3 scoreless innings and Jason Kipnis hit a two-run homer in the sixth, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 win over the San Diego Padres in the first game of a doubleheader.
Since staff ace Justin Masterson pitched seven shutout innings in the season opener against Oakland, Cleveland’s rotation has struggled. McAllister made sure that changed against the Padres.
“Besides Masterson, the first go-through didn’t go well for any of us,” he said. “We batted and competed, but we knew we had to do a better job than what we did that first go-around.”
McAllister (1-0) allowed five hits, struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.
“Anytime you’ve got 18 innings to play in one day, it’s great not to have to go deep into your bullpen,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Eric Stults (0-2) took a shutout into the sixth, but third baseman Alexi Amarista’s throwing error was followed by Kipnis’ first home run of the season.
Cody Allen recorded the final out in the eighth, and John Axford pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
McAllister retired the first two hitters in the eighth, but was pulled after giving up singles to Alexi Amarista and Everth Cabrera. He received a standing ovation when he walked to the dugout.
“That was nice,” McAllister said. “It’s a good feeling to know the fans have your back. It was great.”
Allen got out of the jam by striking out Seth Smith.
Yonder Alonso singled to start the ninth and Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk. The runners moved to second and third, but Will Venable struck out and Xavier Nady lined out to right.
McAllister worked around doubles in the first, third and fifth.
The Padres have lost six of seven and have scored 18 runs in eight games.
San Diego’s defense, which committed two costly errors in Tuesday’s night’s 8-6 loss, let Stults down in the sixth. Amarista fielded Nick Swisher’s ground ball, but his throw was in the dirt, skipped past first baseman Yonder Alonso and bounced into the camera bay for a two-base error.
Kipnis, who signed a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension last week, hit the first pitch to right-center, where Venable barely missed a leap grab.
“The key was just to execute the game plan and try to get ground balls,” Stults said. “For the most part I was able to do that other than really just the one pitch to Kipnis that he kind of got up in the air and carried out of here.”
The error and homer seemed to unnerve Stults, who walked Carlos Santana and gave up a double to Ryan Raburn to put runners on second and third. Stults then strike out Michael Brantley on a 3-2 pitch. Nick Vincent relieved and struck out Yan Gomes.
Stults kept the Indians off balance by mixing his pitches and using a changeup in the range of 75 mph at times. The left-hander allowed two runs — one earned — in 5 2-3 innings.
NOTES: The Indians optioned RHP Vinnie Pestano to Triple-A Columbus before the first game. Pestano allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday and goes to the minors with a 13.50 ERA. … San Diego OF Xavier Nady’s home run in the ninth inning Tuesday was his first hit since Sept. 30, 1012 when he homered for San Francisco against the Padres. Nady spent all of last season in the minors. … Stults recorded a career-high 11 wins last season and was 3-0 in his final four starts. … Cleveland begins a four-game series in Chicago on Thursday night. … The Padres open a 10-game homestand Friday against Detroit.