Rogers getting back on track, throws 7 innings for first time in three years

June 16th, 2024

WASHINGTON -- continues to look closer to his 2021 All-Star self after each outing this season. On Saturday he took another step forward, this time with the mindset of keeping it simple.

“That’s key to success,” Rogers said. “Something as simple as that carries you deep into ballgames and that’s something that I’ve been working on in the past couple of bullpens and to see that payoff felt good.”

Rogers took the mound for a season-high seven innings in Miami’s 4-0 loss at Nationals Park. It was the first time since May 19, 2021, that the southpaw pitched seven innings.

In his 14th start of the season, the veteran allowed no walks and two runs on six hits, dealing 62 of his 93 pitches for strikes, his third-highest strike percentage in a game this season.

Washington got on the board first with a sacrifice fly from Nats first baseman Joey Menses that allowed Lane Thomas to score in the first inning. The last hit Rogers allowed was a solo homer by Thomas in the third inning. Thomas got to the 93.6 mph sinker and snuck it over the fence in right-center to extend the lead to 2-0.

“I just think I didn’t do a good enough job changing [Thomas’] eye level,” Rogers said. “I was being a little stingy throwing my two-seam on the outer part of the plate and a good hitter like that, he’s going to get you every time. After the second AB, we told ourselves, ‘We need to go up.’”

After the homer, the Nationals’ bats went silent.

“I stuck with it, making my pitches and I kind of noticed throughout the game that they weren’t as aggressive on the first pitch as I thought they were going to be,” Rogers said. “I saw that and I told myself, if I could land my secondary stuff for strikes, like quality strikes, and just get strike one, I can go from there. It really just grew from there trying to get ahead early.”

After being limited to four starts due to a left biceps strain, Rogers’ velocity decreased; he has slowly been working to regain that velocity. His fastball lived close to the 95 mph range in 2021 and ‘22. By the seventh inning on Saturday, his velocity remained around 93 mph.

“His stuff was good today, he held his velo,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “He had good stuff, threw strikes, that generally leads to good outcomes and that’s exactly what he did today. No walks, was on the ground quite a bit, good defense behind him. He was great and did enough for us to win today.”

Rogers said that getting through seven innings was important for him. His goal is to pitch seven, eight or even nine innings, even though it may not be realistic. While he had to take some extra time in the training room, his body still felt good.

Most importantly, though, he has found his natural arm path during bullpens in between starts.

“It’s something I’ve been searching for for a long time and I finally found it,” he said. “I found it through repetitions and getting my feet back underneath me through that natural arm path. I think it’ll only grow from here.”

After Rogers’ night ended, Miami’s best scoring opportunity came in the top of the eighth inning. Jesús Sánchez hit a single off reliever Hunter Harvey’s first offering of the night, a 86.6 mph splitter. After Nick Gordon struck out swinging, Jazz Chisholm Jr. entered the lineup as a pinch hitter and laid down a bunt single.

Chisholm and Sánchez then advanced to second and third on a wild pitch by Harvey to Otto Lopez, who was hitting for Christian Bethancourt. Lopez’s patience at the plate was rewarded with a walk to load the bases for Tim Anderson. Anderson worked Harvey to a 3-2 count, but swung and missed on a splitter to end the rally.

“We had a chance to win,” Schumaker said. “With [the] bases loaded in the eighth inning with a really hot hitter up, in the shadows, the whole deal. We liked our chances. It just didn’t come through.”