Rogers' heat bodes well for Miami in playoffs

September 26th, 2020

With one out in the third inning, left-hander reared back and slung a 96.2-mph fastball that Tyler Wade fouled off. The heater was the ninth pitch in a 10-pitch showdown that ended on a popout.

Rogers worked out of the inning by striking out Aaron Judge on an 85.2-mph changeup that was his 54th and final pitch of the regular season. The next time the 22-year-old takes the mound could be when he comes out of the bullpen in the National League Wild Card Series.

For the first time in 17 years, the Marlins played a regular-season game with the intention of looking ahead to the postseason, which made Saturday’s 11-4 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium inconsequential for the road that is ahead for the upstart club.

Saturday turned into a tuneup for Rogers, who at times looked dominant against the Yankees’ A-team lineup. The rookie threw three shutout innings, striking out four while allowing two hits and one walk.

“Our plan was around 60 pitches,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It depended on how he got there. We didn't want him going much over that. It was either going to be three or four innings.”

More than the moment, Mattingly is looking at the bigger picture -- the upcoming playoffs.

“Trevor will be some sort of factor, more in a bullpen role, especially in a three-game series,” Mattingly said. “After that, he pushes more into a starter role. ... Give him a tuneup. Make sure he pitches a little bit, and he will be ready to go.”

Because the Marlins were able to clinch second place in the NL East on Friday night, they were able to reduce Rogers’ innings on Saturday, which should make him fresher for the postseason in whatever role he is used.

Additionally, the pressure was off Rogers to secure a postseason spot for the Marlins, because Sandy Alcantara had a strong outing in Friday’s 4-3 win in 10 innings.

“Hats off to Sandy,” Rogers said. “That outing was absolutely impressive. It was super fun to watch. I take this start just like any other start in my whole career. I'm competitive. I pitch to win. I came in today and expected to win. I pitched well. We just couldn't get the job done today.”

The Yankees did their damage in the fifth inning, tying it at 3 on Wade’s two-run homer off Ryne Stanek and Giancarlo Stanton’s run-scoring double off James Hoyt. Then, in a seven-run sixth inning, Aaron Hicks had a two-run homer off former Yanks left-hander Stephen Tarpley and Luke Voit connected on a three-run shot, his 22nd of the season.

Having already clinched, the Marlins are looking ahead to their best-of-three series, which opens on Wednesday. Currently, Miami is lined up to face the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The projected starters are Alcantara, rookie Sixto Sánchez and Pablo López.

“This guy is going to be good,” Mattingly said of Rogers. “He doesn't get the attention that Sixto does. But this guy is going to be legit. His stuff is legit.”

José Ureña, who will start the regular-season finale on Sunday, is also expected to have an abbreviated final start. He may also land in the bullpen in the playoffs.

Mattingly noted that Ureña will likely have a shorter outing than Rogers, because his start is one game closer to the playoffs. The Marlins want to keep him available for the NL Wild Card Series.

“It will be a pretty short start with José tomorrow,” Mattingly said. “We've got to figure out how to get through that game tomorrow without using guys we don't want to use.”

The club also has rookie left-hander Daniel Castano, who is a starter, on the roster as a long-relief option.

A significant advantage the Marlins feel they will have in October is their power arms. Rogers is among them. The rookie’s average fastball on Saturday was 93.8 mph. The 96.2-mph fastball fouled off by Wade in the third inning was his fastest pitch of the season.

According to Statcast, Rogers now has six pitches tracked this season at 96 mph or above. Three times, he was clocked at 96.1 mph.

“I didn't even know I hit that today, so that's a confidence booster,” Rogers said, when informed that he topped 96 mph. “Yeah, it definitely goes back to my attack mode.”

Sánchez has thrown the most pitches on the team at 96 mph or above, 129. Alcantara (107) has the second-most, while Ureña (28) is fourth.

“For some reason, it bumps my velocity up when I'm attacking and not trying to nibble on the corners,” Rogers said. “It definitely helps from a mentality standpoint, as far as getting the velo up. Obviously, I want to make pitches and be a pitcher and not a thrower. But it definitely helps. When I can use it late in the ballgame, an elevated fastball with that kind of velocity, it definitely plays.”