DETROIT -- Indians starter Zach McAllister lives and dies with his fastball. It is the right-hander's most important pitch, and it has been a key to the success experienced during his past two turns in the rotation for Cleveland.
One aspect of McAllister's approach that was especially effective in Wednesday's 3-2 win in Detroit was elevating his fastball at times. Pitchers are instructed to pound the lower half of the strike zone and, when McAllister is doing that consistently, he can then use the upper portion of the zone to his advantage.
"When he elevates by design, it's good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Part of that is, when he's throwing the ball down and he changes their eye level, that's when you see the swing and miss."
One example came in the fourth inning on Wednesday night. With runners on the corners and two outs, McAllister sent a 93-mph fastball up in the zone to Detroit's Alex Avila. The Tigers catcher swung through the pitch for an important strikeout in a critical situation.
McAllister has a 2.04 ERA through three starts, and he has only allowed one run with 11 strikeouts against two walks in 13 2/3 innings in his last two outings. In his season debut on April 2, McAllister struggled with his fastball command, walking four and laboring through 86 pitches in only four innings at Oakland.
"My first start, you could tell I was up [in the zone] the whole entire time," McAllister said. "Those balls get fouled off if you just live up there. For me to be able to get the ball down was a big adjustment for me. I'm definitely happy I was able to make it and that I'm able to elevate it when I need to."
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway has also been encouraged by McAllister's recent turnaround.
"I think it's huge, because he's such a fastball guy," Callaway said. "I thought the biggest adjustment the last two games is he's pounding the zone, but he's doing it down in the zone. So, when he leaves the ball up, he gets a swing and miss or maybe it eats them up. That makes that high fastball effective."