Rogers shuts down D-backs in series opener
Starter retires 13 straight, allows one hit over 6 1/3 scoreless innings
PHOENIX -- Before Blue Jays manager John Gibbons sent Esmil Rogers to the mound Monday afternoon, he told reporters that the start represented an opportunity for the 28-year-old journeyman to turn some heads as the club tries to evaluate its assets in preparation for the offseason just a month away.
If that was a challenge issued by the skipper, Rogers certainly answered the call, and loudly.
Tossing 6 1/3 one-hit, scoreless innings, Rogers turned in arguably the best performance of his five-year Major League career as the Blue Jays jumped out to an early lead and tacked on late on Edwin Encarnacion's 35th home run to take down the D-backs, 4-1, at Chase Field.
"He did a heck of a job for us; he really did," Gibbons said. "Just a great outing by him."
Entering Monday, the last two months had not been kind to Rogers. Despite the right-hander sprinkling in some quality outings over the stretch, he had a sky-high 7.33 ERA over 50 1/3 innings in July and August. On Monday, however, Rogers looked like an All-Star against the D-backs, using his power sinking fastball to induce 11 ground-ball outs while facing the minimum through six innings.
"I've been working a lot with getting my confidence back, and I got it today," Rogers said. "I was pounding the zone and attacking everybody. If you throw a first-pitch strike, you can do whatever you want. I didn't throw too many high pitches; I just tried to stay down in the zone, and if they swing at those, it's going to be on the ground."
Rogers has been the swing man for the most part this year in Toronto, making 16 starts when needed and coming out of the bullpen 24 times in relief. He will most likely make a few more starts this month, but Gibbons would not speculate on what the right-hander's role next season would be for the Blue Jays.
"Who knows? We've seen him very good as a starter and very good as a reliever," Gibbons said. "Who knows what happens this winter, but he's definitely going to be in consideration [for the rotation]."
For Rogers, he would love the opportunity to secure a spot in the rotation, but he is not concerned with that prospect just yet.
"I just do whatever I can to be here," he said. "I just want to help the team win. It doesn't matter where I am. If I'm here and if I help us win, I'm going to be all right."
In Monday's dominating performance, the only time a runner reached as far as second base against Rogers was in the seventh, when Tony Campana walked to lead off the frame before stealing the bag moments later. That base on balls ended Rogers' streak of consecutive batters retired at 13 reaching back to the second inning, when Martin Prado singled before a double-play ball.
With the runner in scoring position and nobody out in the seventh, Rogers struck out Adam Eaton for his fifth punchout of the afternoon before Gibbons decided to call on the bullpen to face National League MVP contender Paul Goldschmidt, who represented the tying run at the time.
"I know these guys, and he's been vulnerable to the home-run ball lately, and when he walked Campana to start the inning, he was starting to scatter his pitches," Gibbons said. "Even the next hitter, when he got the strikeout, he was yanking a lot of them. Then I looked back to the at-bat before, and Goldschmidt had hit a couple long balls that could've been home runs but were foul. [Rogers] had done his job."
Sergio Santos ended up walking the D-backs' first baseman, but he then got Eric Chavez to ground into an inning-ending double play to keep Rogers' line spotless.
"You've got to wait him out; you've got to get some pitches on his arm and make him get to where he's elevating the ball a little bit," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Rogers. "You saw how quickly Gibbons took him out. He hasn't thrown the ball that well. He threw a good game today. I think when you've got a guy going like that, you've got to try and make an adjustment on him, and we didn't do that."
Following Santos, Steve Delabar worked a scoreless frame in the eighth in his first outing since coming off the disabled list Sunday. Aaron Loup entered in the ninth and gave up a run to end the shutout before Casey Janssen recorded his 27th save of the year, inducing the Blue Jays' fourth double play of the day to end the game.
Although they did not experience much success against D-backs starter Brandon McCarthy on Monday, the Blue Jays made the most of their opportunities at the plate. With two outs and a runner on third in the second inning, Kevin Pillar jam-shot a blooper into left field to plate the first run of the game. The next batter, Anthony Gose, tripled off the center-field wall to put Toronto ahead, 2-0.
That score stood until the ninth inning, when Encarnacion provided a couple of insurance runs with a no-doubter deep into the left-field stands for a two-run shot. The first baseman has now tallied seven homers and 11 RBIs in just 13 career games at Chase Field.
"That's big, especially the way it turned out," Gibbons said. "We had to get out of a big jam with two guys on. It's a totally different look in a 2-0 game."
The long ball upped Encarnacion's RBI total over the century mark, to 101, and gave him 35 homers for the second consecutive season. He is just the fifth Blue Jay in franchise history to accomplish that feat, joining Carlos Delgado, Jose Bautista, Fred McGriff and Shawn Green.
"It means a lot; I've been working hard always for a good thing like this," Encarnacion said. "As I've said before, when you retire, you want to be remembered in the game."