1:02 AM UTC
Guardians starter Logan Allen has gotten over a lot of the rookie hurdles.
He’s learned that his stuff plays in the big leagues. He knows he can have success. He’s gone through his first option back to the Minors after having some time in the Majors. The next step for him to conquer is to settle in on the mound right out of the gate.
Allen has struggled with his pitch count this season and once again found himself close to 30 pitches at the end of the first inning in the Guardians’ 6-5 extra-inning loss to the Giants on Wednesday at Oracle Park. But as he has figured out how to do countless times this season, he managed to navigate around his slow start and finish strong, allowing just one run on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts in five innings.
“I think I’ve been battling it all year long just getting settled in in the first inning but just trusting my stuff and going out there and competing,” Allen said. “It felt really good to have like an eight-, 10-pitch inning there in the second inning. It kind of settled me in and allowed me to get through five.”
The lone run that Allen permitted came on an RBI single to center in the first inning. After that, he put zeros on the scoreboard and managed to complete five frames on 88 pitches. Maybe if he weren’t a rookie who has thrown a career-high number of innings this year, he would’ve been able to get the ball again to go back out to the mound for the sixth. But Guardians manager Terry Francona has been diligent in his care for the three young starters (Allen, Gavin Williams and Tanner Bibee) over the last month of the season and is making sure they don’t get pushed too far.
Mix more experience with more efficient first frames and Allen can be a dream No. 4 or No. 5 starter behind guys like Bibee, Williams and Triston McKenzie next year, depending on how Cleveland’s offseason shakes out.
“A lot of deep counts, but like he can, for the most part he kept them off the scoreboard,” Francona said when asked about Allen’s performance. “You look up, getting towards 90 [pitches] after five. But again, he doesn’t give in ever and he competes like crazy.”
Prior to Wednesday’s outing, Allen owned a 6.14 ERA in the first innings of his 22 starts as opposed to a 0.82 ERA in the second and 2.05 in the third. Throughout the year, he started to wane in the later innings, pitching to a 5.19 ERA in the fifth and 4.76 in the sixth. Those rocky first innings have been a big reason as to why 13 of his now 23 starts have been shorter than six frames.
“Those five-inning games are going to turn into seven-inning games at some point,” Francona said, “I’m telling you.”
The Guardians would’ve welcomed a seven-inning outing on Wednesday to hopefully put the bullpen in a better position to eat up fewer frames, considering that after scoreless innings from Nick Sandlin and Enyel De Los Santos, Eli Morgan gave up a game-tying three-run homer in the eighth.
“You’re just hoping that ball’s a sac fly and it clears the guy from third, but that’s the game,” Francona said.
Instead, the team suffered its second extra-innings loss of the series. It still remains 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Twins with just 15 to play.
Even if the luck isn’t in Cleveland’s favor this year, the organization can at least see the foundation being set for its future rotation in guys like Williams, Bibee and Allen. And Allen is looking forward to where he will continue to grow based on what he’s learned in his rookie year.
“I think it’s just even taking a bad first inning and getting through the outing kind of just bodes well for the future when those first innings clean up a little bit and we avoid those 30-pitch innings,” Allen said. “We can keep those down to 10, 15, I think that’s when we’ll see the sixth, seventh, eighth. I’m excited for that to come.”