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McAllister picks off Vizquel at second

CLEVELAND -- Despite what the scoreboard displayed as he strolled toward the dugout with one out in the sixth, the third career start was not the charm for Zach McAllister.

Though the rookie right-hander held up his end of the bargain, exiting with his team in front, he remains in search of his first Major League victory.

McAllister vanquished the first two forgettable starts of his big league career with a solid outing, but the Indians' bullpen could not hold the lead, as the Tribe settled for a split in Tuesday's twin bill with a 5-4 loss to the White Sox in the nightcap. The Tribe took Game 1, 4-3.

"McAllister threw the ball very well," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He was a different guy today. He was very aggressive. He got behind the ball and threw it with some conviction."

In his third spot start, McAllister allowed two runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, a far cry from his previous outing, an Aug. 23 nightmare against the Mariners. In that appearance, the 23-year-old surrendered 10 runs (eight earned) on nine hits in 3 1/3 frightening frames.

In 25 starts at Triple-A Columbus, McAllister posted a 12-3 record and a 3.32 ERA. His performance on Tuesday revealed a pitcher striving to prove himself on the Major League level, a common September objective among up-and-coming hurlers.

"I wanted to prove it to myself and know that I can do it," McAllister said. "I felt like I could do it, and today was definitely nice to go out there and pitch the way that I'm capable of."

McAllister's effort was not rewarded, however, as the White Sox plated a pair of decisive runs in the seventh to take the lead.

Having employed Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano in the first game of the doubleheader and Rafael Perez in the sixth inning of the nightcap, Acta was forced to turn to Michigan product Zach Putnam, a rookie who had previously pitched in three one-sided contests.

Putnam served up a single to catcher Tyler Flowers, a double to second baseman Gordon Beckham and a single to shortstop Alexei Ramirez before plunking first baseman Paul Konerko in the left hip. Beckham doubled in his first three at-bats.

"When I needed to make a pitch down in the zone, I was just leaving things up," Putnam said. "Against that lineup, you just can't do that."

Another rookie, southpaw Nick Hagadone, mopped up Putnam's mess by inducing an inning-ending double play from Dayan Viciedo.

Cleveland pounced on Chicago starter Dylan Axelrod for four runs in the fourth. Jason Donald -- who tied a career high with four hits -- opened the offensive surge with a single. Carlos Santana and Jim Thome followed with knocks of their own. Thome's single plated Donald, and Santana scored on Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly. Thome then touched home on Matt LaPorta's double before Jack Hannahan closed the scoring with another sacrifice fly.

The Indians, however, could not scratch across any runs against the White Sox bullpen. Josh Kinney, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Chris Sale combined to toss 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

As they battle for second place in the American League Central, the Indians are learning about the ability of the prospects they have had stockpiled at Triple-A, as they use inexperienced players in key situations with injuries mounting and veterans resting.

While McAllister displayed his potential on Tuesday, Putnam got his first taste of a high-pressure pitching moment at the big league level. Unfortunately for the Indians, Putnam's growing pains factored into a defeat.

"It wasn't Zach's day today," Acta said, "and that's all there is to it."

For one Zach, that rang true. For McAllister, though, it was a day of progress.

"I always thought I could do it and pitch well," McAllister said. "Tonight was one step for me to prove to myself that I can do it, and I feel that I can do better than that, too."

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