Rogers K's 10 but defense stumbles in loss

September 22nd, 2021

MIAMI -- Marlins left-hander looked more like his old self in Tuesday night's 7-1 loss to the Nationals at loanDepot park.

Rogers matched a career high with 10 strikeouts across 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks. With the way the Marlins' schedule lines up, he should make two more starts -- one during next Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Mets at Citi Field and on Oct. 3 to close out the season vs. the Phillies.

"Without a doubt," Rogers said of the outing being the best he has pitched in a while. "Finally felt like my normal self [from] earlier in the season. Kind of took me a while to get my feet back underneath me. [Catcher ] and I had a great game plan going into today's game. Really just executing. All my pitches really worked today. Definitely a good confidence booster probably going into my last two starts of the year."

Prior to missing a little over a month while spending time on the family medical emergency, bereavement and restricted lists, Rogers was considered the frontrunner for the National League Rookie of the Year award. He still paces all NL rookie pitchers in ERA (2.67), starts (24), innings (128), strikeouts (151), average against (.220) and WHIP (1.17).

Since his return, Rogers justifiably had been unable to find his form through three starts. Over 12 2/3 innings, he had just 12 strikeouts and a 4.97 ERA. In his most recent outing last Wednesday against the Nationals, his stuff lacked zip.

All the damage against Rogers on Tuesday came in the sixth inning, in part due to shaky defense behind him, including two errors and another two plays that sure-handed shortstop Miguel Rojas usually would make.

“He was definitely a lot sharper, probably the sharpest he's been in the second half, outside of Atlanta,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He was pretty good over there for four innings. So two out of his last three have been -- his stuff has been really good, and a lot of clean innings. Just have that one inning there that kind of gets away from him a little bit.”

While Rogers’ four-seam fastball usage (60 percent) was the highest since his return, his secondary pitches proved effective as the game progressed. He induced whiffs on five of six swings against sliders and five of eight vs. changeups.

Tuesday marked the first time Rogers had pitched into the sixth inning since June 29, and the velocity on his four-seamer (95.4 mph), slider and changeup showed an increase compared to his season average. The 23-year-old Rogers credited Thursday’s off-day in helping him fully recover. Despite his time away, the southpaw is just 8 1/3 frames shy of his career high (136 1/3 innings) between two levels of the Minors in 2019.

“He put himself in good counts,” Mattingly said. “He had extra fastball [velocity] today. You could see he was kind of back into what we see, a lot more of that 96-97 [mph] range where you know that extra zip puts you in trouble as a hitter, and then it just changes the offspeed.

“I thought his slider was good tonight. He threw some good changeups, but as much as anything I thought he located his fastball tonight, got it to the top of the zone. It just puts guys in more of a bind when you can throw that fastball off the top, and then you have the changeup/slider going down.”

His batterymate on Tuesday was the same one that he had in Jupiter in 2019. Fortes not only offered comfortability behind the dish, but he also provided Miami's only offense with his fifth-inning homer. Fortes became the first Marlin to go deep in his first two Major League starts. Since his callup, he is 5-for-9 with one walk, two homers, three runs and three RBIs.

“Honestly, he's pretty much the same pitcher, just with better stuff,” said Fortes, who did record three passed balls. “His stuff has progressed a lot since the last time I caught him in 2019, and obviously his command has gotten way better too. But all around he's the same pitcher, but just with better stuff.”