Cody Allen knows pressure.
The Cleveland Indians closer made 10 tension-filled appearances during the 2016 MLB Playoffs. He got the job done time after time, finishing the postseason with 13.2 innings pitched, 24 strikeouts and zero runs allowed.
Though his stat line was magnificent, Allen didn't achieve it without a struggle. His 40-pitch save to complete the Indians' sweep of the Boston Red Sox was one of the grittiest displays you'll ever see.
In a recent interview with STACK, Allen revealed his secret for handling the pressure of closing a game. He said, "I think the best thing I try to think about is that once that ball leaves my fingers, I am no longer in control of it. So I mean it could be a perfectly located, really good breaking ball and the guy hits one off the end of the bat and it falls in. I can't control that. The only thing I can focus on is trying to make a good pitch and then moving on to the next one."
Allen went on to describe the pitfalls that can occur when you stop focusing on your own execution and obsess about the results.
"You can drive yourself nuts if you're just judging yourself based off results," he said. "If you're predominantly making good pitches, you're largely going to get good results. But every now and then, you're going to get beat. The guy's a good hitter, it was bad luck, whatever it was. If you go back and look at those and think 'gosh, how'd he hit that? I don't understand,' you're going to drive yourself crazy. The guys in this league are the best players in baseball. You make a really good pitch to J.D. Martinez and he hits it 430 feet; that's going to happen sometimes."
Oh, and that really has happened to Allen before.
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Allen believes the ability to quickly forget a bad outing has been crucial to his consistency and success. He said, "You're forced to be [mentally strong]. If you sit back and you blow one, you can't really feel sorry for yourself. No one else is going to; no one's going to feel sorry for you. So you wipe it out. If you're thinking about the last one when you're going out to pitch in the next one, you're dead in the water. All you can do is prepare the best you can, then go out and compete."
Alongside dominating setup man Andrew Miller, Allen is one half of baseball's deadliest bullpen duos. Last postseason, Miller tossed 19.1 innings, allowing just three earned runs and racking up 30 strikeouts. The 28-year-old Allen said Miller set a great example for the rest of the team with his no-excuses attitude.
"[He sets an example with] his mentality," Allen said. "If you're ever thinking about complaining or feeling sorry for yourself, you just look at him and go, 'I have no reason to say anything right now.' Because [Miller] grabs the ball whenever he's asked and then pitches for as long as he's asked to do it. Regardless of how he feels. So when you've got your best player doing that, it rubs off. He sets a great example for everyone out there."
With Allen and Miller on board for the 2017 season, the Indians bullpen should be lights-out once again.
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