Rogers leads Tigers to sweep with multihomer showing

September 18th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- The last time the Tigers swept a series at Angel Stadium, Alan Trammell was still at shortstop, Kirk Gibson was back with the club after five years away and Mickey Tettleton was beginning his transition away from catcher. It was August of 1993, and the Tigers rode a combination of aging stars and young guys trying to break through to an 85-win campaign that would mark their last winning season until 2006.

It was a far different roster that came through this weekend and took three games. Though 40-year-old Miguel Cabrera contributed a go-ahead RBI single on Saturday night as he puts the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career, the majority of the damage came from younger players trying to find their way.

Among the latter is catcher . At 28, he’s actually above the average age for the roster, according to baseball-reference. But after missing all of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, opening this season in a platoon with Eric Haase and now splitting starts with Carson Kelly, Rogers is making his case to be a part of the core going forward.

Sunday’s 5-3 win was a winner on three levels for Rogers, who …

  • Powered Detroit’s offense with two homers and four RBIs in his first two at-bats, building an early lead that the Tigers never relinquished.
  • Guided the Tigers’ pitching staff through a six-pitcher game that included an opener in Miguel Diaz and a seven-strikeout performance from starter turned bulk reliever Joey Wentz, whom Rogers encouraged to use his curveball as a two-strike pitch.
  • Held his own defensively, including a charge and throw from in front of home plate to deny Jared Walsh a bunt single leading off the eighth inning against Tyler Holton.

Nobody in Detroit’s dugout appreciates catcher contributions more than manager and former backstop A.J. Hinch, whom Rogers peppers with trivia about former Major League catchers from during and before his time.

“I love what he did behind the plate,” Hinch said. “He was a big difference-maker at the plate. We continue to give him opportunities because he’s earned it.”

Rogers has a chance to throw one more bit of trivia at his skipper: If he homers one more time this season, he’ll become the second 20-homer catcher in Hinch’s three-year Tigers managerial tenure, joining Haase from two years ago.

Rogers would have the 17th 20-homer season by a Tigers catcher, and join Haase, Tettleton, Matt Nokes, Lance Parrish, Bill Freehan and Rudy York as the only Detroit catchers to do it. All but Haase were regulars, but Rogers’ next game will be his 100th of the season.

“He’s crushed left-handed pitching this year,” Hinch said of Rogers, “and his power has been real. I mean, he’s hit some right-handed pitching, too, but he’s really confident against left-handed pitching and he’s doing damage.”

This is how Rogers has played since he joined the Tigers' organization in the Justin Verlander trade. He has never profiled as a high-average hitter, but he can hit for power, and pairs it with strong-armed defense, instinctive game-calling and pitch framing.

“I just try to hit the ball hard and put together some productive at-bats,” Rogers said. “I’m proud of myself for doing it and hopefully keep it rolling over these final two weeks.”

Both of Rogers’ homers Sunday came off Angels lefty Kenny Rosenberg, who entered as a bulk reliever after Jimmy Herget’s opening inning. He saw a high changeup from Rosenberg in the second inning and sent it over the left-field wall at 107.4 miles per hour, his third-hardest hit ball of the season. An inning later, he stepped to the plate with two on, two out and the Tigers looking for a big inning from what had been a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity. He sat on a first-pitch fastball and sent it on a line out to right for a three-run homer.

“I didn’t know if it was going to be out or not,” Rogers said. “I took off running, hoping just to get a double. But it snuck out. Oppo taco.”

Freehan is the only Tigers catcher with a three-homer game, but Rogers was just one swing away from joining him the rest of the afternoon. He grounded out against Rosenberg in the fifth inning before taking a four-pitch walk from another lefty, Aaron Loup, in the eighth.