CLEVELAND -- In his last three trips to the mound, reliever Cody Allen has picked up two holds and a save.
During the process of closing out the Indians' 3-0 win over the Royals on Friday, Allen allowed two hits and one walk, but no runs. He also had three strikeouts, giving Allen 52 punchouts on the season. Through 39 2/3 innings over 40 appearances, Allen has a 2.27 ERA, five holds and two saves in four opportunities.
"I think he always handles himself fine," manager Terry Francona said. "I thought he made it a little harder than he needed to [on Friday]. In his defense, that ninth inning ... you're out there kind of on your own. He threw a lot of pitches, but all his pitches, they were fastballs over 96 [mph], breaking balls that were either in the zone, out of the zone. And when you get to a point in the game where one hit can tie you or beat you, you have to pitch a little differently. And he never gave in and got the last out."
With regular closer Chris Perez unavailable due to his recent workload, Allen knew it was a possibility that he'd pitch the ninth inning on Friday, though he figured the job would go to Joe Smith. Francona has gone to Smith a lot lately, too, and the manager thought Allen would be better prepared to handle a long inning.
In racking up his 52nd strikeout, Allen moved into a tie for fifth place on the list of Indians relievers with the most strikeouts in the first half since 1916. He's also averaging 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings, which is the fifth-best rate for a Tribe reliever in the first half over that same span.
Among Tribe relievers with 25 appearances, Allen has the lowest ERA and the most strikeouts. He's 4-1, while having allowed five home runs and 13 walks.
The only inning Allen hasn't pitched in this season is the first. He has made 18 appearances and thrown 12 2/3 innings during the seventh, the frame he's appeared in most. On Friday, Allen pitched in the ninth inning for the fifth time this season.
"I still honestly believe that three outs is three outs and an inning is an inning," Allen said. "Granted, their approaches change a little bit later in the game, because they're trying to manufacture runs. But, I feel comfortable out there. I felt comfortable out there the first time. I feel comfortable in the sixth. I feel comfortable in the seventh. I feel comfortable in the ninth."
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.