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Behind the Box Score: Zach McAllister finds curveball

Zach McAllister has discovered the best curveball of his career this season and proved it on Monday with two shutdown innings and four strikeouts out of the bullpen.

Zach McAllister has never been a pitcher to throw the kitchen sink at opposing hitters. In fact, the starter-turned reliever has used his fastball at a 73.2% clip compared to his curveball (12.6%) and slider (6.5%) over the course of his four-year tenure in the big leagues. 

In a small sample size of 12.2 innings this season, McAllister has posted career-bests in ERA (1.42), WHIP (1.03), opposing batting average (.143) and K/9 (12.08).

Has McAllister shook free from his one-dimensional label as a fastball-driven pitcher with little confidence in using his secondary offerings at a consistent rate?

His emerging curveball would answer yes.

The former Yankees farmhand fired two scoreless innings with four strikeouts on Monday against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Two of the punchouts came on McAllister's curve, a pitch he has used a career-high 15.9% of the time in 2017...

Pitch 1: 82.4-mph curveball (called strike one)

Pitch 2: 95.7-mph two-seam fastball (foul ball, strike two)

Pitch 3: 82.1-mph curveball (swinging strike three)

Pitch 1: 80.9-mph curveball (swinging strike one)

Pitch 2: 79.2-mph curveball (ball one)

Pitch 3: 95.9-mph four-seam fastball (swinging strike two)

Pitch 4: 82.3-mph curveball (swinging strike three)

Although command was a concern (two walks, 58.8% strikes), McAllister was able to change the eye level of opposing hitters with an even distribution of four-seam and two-seam fastballs up in the zone and curveballs at/below the knees...

Pitch Distribution on Monday

Four-Seam Fastball: 12 pitches, 72.2-mph average exit velocity, three swinging strikes and one called strike.

Two-Seam Fastball: 11 pitches, 75.8-mph average exit velocity, one swinging strike, two called strikes and one batted ball in play.

Curveball: 11 pitches, three swinging strikes and four called strikes (no contact).

Totals: 34 pitches, 74.4-mph average exit velocity, seven swinging strikes, seven called strikes and one batted ball in play.

Unlike his historical trends that show a heavy dosage of fastballs, McAllister was able to balance the three offerings at an equal rate to keep even the best hitters on the Blue Jays roster in check.

While Andrew Miller and Cody Allen get all the notoriety for a relief unit with the number one ERA (1.83), FIP (2.14), K-BB% (20.6%) and HR/FB ratio (2.7%) in baseball entering play on Monday, McAllister still plays an integral role in keeping the Tribe offense within striking distance throughout the middle innings.

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long. 

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