He allowed five earned runs in 4.1 innings and worst of all, he allowed three walks.
Those free passes did more harm than the good of his six strikeouts.
McKenzie was pulled after throwing 90 pitches and the result was another 7-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
So what are fans to make of his latest tough start?
Working Toward a Normal Routine
The Indians are easing McKenzie into this full-time starter role and it makes sense why.
One problem seen so far is a drop in velocity as the games go on.
Triston McKenzie had his fastball velocity drop there, from 93-94.5 in innings 1 and 2 to 90.5-91.5 in the 4th before he left a slider over the heart of the plate to Dylan Moore, which cost him. That drop has come and gone at different levels at times this season. pic.twitter.com/eqFuqjq2nZ
— Ryan Lewis (@ByRyanLewis) May 16, 2021
Fans must remember McKenzie has never had a true full season of work.
He logged 143 innings back in 2017 at the Single-A level.
That remains a career-high for him in his professional career.
The right-hander only threw 90.2 innings with Akron in 2018 before missing all of 2019 with injuries.
McKenzie was then given a promotion in 2020, but only pitched 33.1 innings in the shortened season.
He is also still only 23 years old.
Add in the lost 2019 season, coupled with the weird year in 2020, and 2021 is his first normal season at such a high level.
This is less of an excuse and more of an explanation for why patience is required with McKenzie.
But that does not excuse him allowing three or four walks per start in already limited innings.
Not stopping the free passes could be one thing that leads to a demotion.
Saturday’s Familiar Showdown
Indians fans paying close attention noticed a familiar name on the mound for the Mariners.
That was starting pitcher Justus Sheffield.
He was Cleveland’s first-round pick in 2014 who was ultimately traded to the New York Yankees in the Andrew Miller deal.
McKenzie was drafted one year later and was deemed talented enough to stay.
Both knew each other coming up through the system and Sheffield won their first duel in the big leagues.
"See you in the big leagues!"
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) May 16, 2021
It is hard to fault the Indians for the Miller deal.
Some fans may have wished the team didn’t also include Clint Frazier, but Miller nearly helped the team win a title.
So it was worth it in the end.
Such a deal also proved the Indians were buyers for the first time in a long time.
That beats the alternative of selling off top talent every single year.
Plenty of Time for Improvement
The biggest thing for McKenzie is limiting the walks.
He had three on Saturday after having four each in his previous four starts.
McKenzie is still not at Logan Allen‘s level where the southpaw couldn’t stop allowing home runs.
And while the drop in velocity is noticeable, a demotion to Triple-A may not cure that.
Time is going to be the key with the young pitcher.
The Indians are already keeping him on a sort of pitch count and a player like Cal Quantrill is ready to come in and log multiple innings whenever McKenzie starts.
This narrative would only change if the struggles continue well into the summer.
Then there would be a real cause for concern about his long-term abilities.