‘Really good stretch’ of starts ends as Allen falters

2:48 AM UTC

CLEVELAND — The Guardians rotation seemed to finally be gaining steam, having six consecutive outings of at least five innings after struggling all year with consistently getting depth from their starters.

“It’s been a really good stretch right now,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said before Tuesday’s game. “We just want to keep it rolling.”

Then, the streak came to a screeching halt.

The Guardians only got 2 1/3 innings out of starter Logan Allen in Tuesday’s 11-7 loss to the Tigers at Progressive Field. Although Cleveland plated seven runs through the first two innings to try to remain in contention, the bats were silenced when Detroit turned to its bullpen.

This leaves Cleveland in another head-scratching situation with the one part of the roster that’s been so reliable each year in recent memory. Let’s break it down.

The goodThe biggest concern when a pitcher is knocked out of the game early is depleting your bullpen, especially for a team like the Guardians, who still have another nine days until they can enjoy an off-day. That’s why Pedro Avila‘s performance was critical.

Avila relieved Allen in the third inning and tossed three frames, allowing one run on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Although he was saddled with the loss, he was able to get his team through six innings with just a one-run deficit.

“He stepped up huge,” Vogt said. “For him to bridge us all the way into the sixth — it’s not easy coming into the game in the third and he did a great job attacking the zone.”

Because Avila went three frames, the Guardians only had to burn Cade Smith (who last pitched Saturday), Tim Herrin (who last pitched Sunday) and Scott Barlow (who last pitched Sunday) in the loss and could avoid using guys like Hunter Gaddis, Sam Hentges or Nick Sandlin on consecutive nights.

If the Guardians are in position to win during the series finale on Wednesday, the bullpen should have its best weapons fresh and ready to go.

The badThe Guardians were in an uphill battle from the start.

For the second straight day, Cleveland gave up a leadoff homer to set the tone. Although the club came back from that deficit on Monday and answered the call in the bottom half of the first inning with two runs on Tuesday, this time, the game slipped away.

Allen turned in the shortest outing of his career after allowing a career-high seven earned runs on seven hits, including two homers (both by Andy Ibáñez).

“He struggled,” Vogt said. “He had a hard time commanding the fastball. It seemed like when he did execute a breaking ball, they were on it. But the biggest thing was getting behind in counts, he missed some pitches over the middle.”

Allen’s velocity was down a tick and of his 67 pitches, 38 were strikes — 29 were balls. Batters put 11 balls in play against him, nine of which were hard hit. He didn’t get a whiff on any of the 12 swings taken against his heater and he wasn’t able to get much chase on his other pitches (one each with his cutter, sweeper and changeup). Allen wasn’t available after the game to comment on his outing, but his catcher, Bo Naylor, weighed in on what he thought the problem was.

“Just getting into deep counts, not really getting ahead as well as we could’ve,” Naylor said. “I think as the lineup turned over, I think we could’ve done a better job together moving in and out, up and down, changing eye levels just to keep them off the offspeed to continue to give it some value.”

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The unknownThese types of outings are inevitable. Every starter is going to run into a clunker randomly throughout the season. The Guardians just have to hope that this doesn’t become a trend yet again.

In the first 29 games of the year, Cleveland received at least six innings from its starter on just five separate occasions. In that span, the Guardians experienced 15 straight starts that lasted fewer than six frames.

Gavin Williams is still building up in his throwing program to be able to throw a bullpen session. If the Guardians would want to make a change in their rotation, Xzavion Curry is the lone Major League ready arm in Triple-A Columbus.

If the trend continues, Cleveland may need to consider other options. For now, it needs to hope that Tuesday night doesn’t halt all the momentum the starting staff seemed to be gaining over the past week.