Rogers on Shohei showdown: 'He did a lot better than I did'

Marlins go cold vs. Angels' two-way star, who chases lefty with clutch hit in 3-run 5th

July 7th, 2022

MIAMI -- The universal designated hitter may have returned in 2022, but it felt like old school National League style baseball in the Marlins' 5-2 loss to the Angels on Wednesday night at loanDepot park.

In the game-changing fifth inning, left-hander Trevor Rogers faced two-way star Shohei Ohtani with the bases loaded and two outs in a tie ballgame. Ohtani sent a well-located 97.3 mph four-seamer through a hole in the shift as the go-ahead two-run single.

“He did a lot better than I did, I can tell you that,” joked Rogers, who went 3-for-43 in his career. “That guy's special and he's great for the game, I can tell you that.”

Rogers appeared amped early on, matching up with two former American League MVPs. He showed increased velocity compared to his season numbers during a 14-pitch first inning in which he struck out Mike Trout and Ohtani.

“Facing a guy like that, it's pretty special,” said Rogers. “I'm just honored to be part of it. I always tell myself, ‘I'm trying to be the best, so you've got to beat them.’ When you've got Ohtani and Trout, those are probably the two best guys in baseball right now. It just means a little bit more to me if I can get those guys out and head in the right direction.”

Miami, meanwhile, jumped on Ohtani for an unearned run in the first -- but didn’t muster a hit against him after Miguel Rojas’ second-inning single. The Marlins struck out 10 times against Ohtani across seven innings of one-run ball.

“First one I've seen him pitch live and obviously impressive,” manager Don Mattingly said. “You feel a lot like Sandy [Alcantara] in the sense that he's got a variety of pitches, he can dial it up when he wants to, hit higher velos. He's got the split that goes down. He locates the fastball good, a couple of different breaking balls, and never seems to really get rattled. He just seems to be calm and going about making pitches, so pretty impressive tonight.”

The 24-year-old Rogers kept up with Ohtani by holding the Angels scoreless until the fifth, when Michael Stefanic opened with an infield hit on a swinging bunt that third baseman Brian Anderson had no play on. Following a forceout, Max Stassi doubled on a ball to the left-center gap that popped out of Jon Berti’s glove.

Rogers then tried being too precise with his command, and it cost him. He hit former teammate Monte Harrison, who doesn’t have a hit in the Majors this season, on a two-strike slider. After a forceout at home, Rogers overthrew a 96.9 mph four-seamer that hit Trout to drive in the tying run.

Next time, Rogers won’t let the moment get the better of him, just “take a breath and execute the pitch.” Entering the Harrison plate appearance, Rogers had hit just one of 326 batters on the season. Following the Ohtani two-run knock, Mattingly pulled Rogers after just 81 pitches in favor of Zach Pop, who got Taylor Ward to line out.

“He's got three really good pitches,” Stassi said of Rogers. “It just looked like maybe he fell behind on some guys and the two hit-by-pitches, those never help. But he's got really good stuff. He's got strikeouts, and he's got good stuff.”

Despite the outcome, Rogers seems headed in the right direction during a challenging sophomore campaign (5.57 ERA). The fifth inning was the latest example of his inability to get over the hump. He has completed five frames in just nine of 16 starts this season, usually thwarted by an inning like this one.

“Thought he was good tonight, three in a row really that he's been pretty good,” Mattingly said. “He has had an inning where he gets a little trouble. He walked a couple of guys in D.C. [last time out]. It gets away from him a little bit. But other than that, there's going to be things he has to get through, but really he's getting pretty consistent with the way he's throwing the ball.”

Wednesday’s loss snapped Miami’s six-game win streak, as the club was unable to reach .500 for the first time since May 4. The Marlins now travel to New York for a pivotal series against the NL East-leading Mets.

“Definitely want the outcome to be different for sure,” Rogers said. “[I] want to win each time I'm out there, but the guy has great stuff. He got me on this one.”