ARLINGTON -- There have been times when Zach McAllister has pitched like a future ace for the Indians' rotation. On other occasions, he has pitched like a rookie. One thing is clear: McAllister is a part of the team's plans.
On Thursday night, McAllister pitched well for the Tribe, holding a potent Rangers lineup at bay over six innings. It was a solid bounceback outing during a recent rough patch for the rookie, but it took more than his performance for Cleveland to pull off a 5-4 victory to avoid a sweep in Texas.
Ezequiel Carrera and Jason Kipnis each belted a home run in a three-run ninth inning for Cleveland, which overcame three costly errors and ended a five-game losing streak. Kipnis' two-run shot off closer Joe Nathan pushed the Indians to a one-run lead they did not relinquish.
"That showed a lot of grit," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "It felt like that was our game and we had a chance to come back and get it. Fortunately for us, they went after Nathan and were aggressive at the plate."
The dramatic rally -- a rare occurrence for the Tribe these days -- ended a run of 31 consecutive saves for Nathan. It also produced Cleveland's second win of the season in 77 games in which the club trailed after eight innings.
Errors were nearly the Indians' undoing on this evening.
Shortstop Brent Lillibridge threw wildly on the back end of a would-be double play in the fourth inning, leading to one of the two runs yielded by McAllister. Lillibridge misfired on another throw in the eighth, allowing Elvis Andrus to reach to open the inning. Andrus later scored from third when Tribe third baseman Jack Hannahan botched a ground ball off the bat of Nelson Cruz.
"We tried to give it away," Acta said.
Texas' two-run push in the eighth helped put Cleveland in a 4-2 hole, but the Tribe -- winners in just 10 of the last 45 games -- refused to go as quietly as they have in recent weeks.
Cleveland's offense did not mount much against Rangers lefty Derek Holland, who spun seven solid innings, but the low output might have held up with better defense. Matt LaPorta provided the Tribe's lone breakthrough off Holland by crushing a 1-0 pitch for a two-run home run in the sixth.
"Matty was able to get us back into the game," Acta said. "When he barrels it, they go. He hit that ball pretty good."
Carrera (with his leadoff blast) and Kipnis (whose two-run shot followed a single by Russ Canzler) did the rest for the Indians in the ninth.
"Cleveland fought back and took that game away from us," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They did it the tough way, by punching the ball out of the ballpark."
LaPorta's first shot of the season pulled the game into a 2-2 tie, helping McAllister at least head home with a no-decision. McAllister was charged with two runs (one earned) on eight hits over his six frames, piling up six strikeouts against no walks in his 87-pitch effort for the Indians (60-84).
McAllister needed 87 pitches to get through three innings in his previous start.
Over his previous eight turns, McAllister had gone 1-5 with a 6.08 ERA, so his latest showing against Texas (85-58) was an admirable step forward. The 24-year-old right-hander said a key was some mechanical tweaks made in his bullpen session a few days ago. That helped him return to pounding the strike zone efficiently.
"I was definitely happy with it," McAllister said. "It felt good to get back out there and get our team a quality start and a chance to win again."
McAllister looked more like the pitcher who began his season with a 10-start stretch that included a 4-2 record and a 3.18 ERA.
That sound opening act put McAllister -- an afterthought in the spring competition -- firmly on Cleveland's rotation radar. Amidst the overall pitching woes, the rookie has been a bright spot at times. As the Indians begin mapping out their plans for 2013, it seems apparent that McAllister will be a part of the blueprint.
"I really like him. We all like him," Acta said. "I think he's a solid guy that is big and strong and can pile up innings. He doesn't back down. He hasn't been intimidated up here. We feel that, when he goes out there, he gives us an opportunity.
"He's had a couple of rough outings, but I'm very happy with the way he has thrown the ball."