SAN FRANCISCO — Almost lost in the Giants 4-2 win over the Kansas City Royals the previous evening was another outing where relief pitcher Tyler Rogers had Oracle Park fans at the edge of their seats.
And not in a good way.
Taking over for Logan Webb to begin the eighth inning with a 3-0 lead, Rogers gave up three hits and two runs (one earned), putting the Giants in a precarious position in a game that appeared in the bag.
Rogers turned in one of the best seasons by a reliever in the National League in 2021, pitching in a league-high 80 games and going 7-1 with 13 saves and a 2.22 earned run average. Currently, Rogers stands at 0-2 with no saves and an ERA at 5.40.
“You’ve just got to tell yourself to keep sticking with your strengths,” Rogers said Wednesday before the Giants closed out a nine-game homestand with a getaway day game against the Royals. “It’s a round ball, round bat.”
While Rogers hasn’t gotten nearly the same results, there are statistical indicators that he’s pitched in some tough luck. That was never more evident than pitching one-third of an inning against the New York Mets on May 24 and giving up seven hits and seven earned runs in a game the Giants won 13-12.
The Mets didn’t exactly wear the ball out, with all manner of bloop hits and seeing-eye ground balls finding open spaces rather than Giants’ gloves.
Such is the life of a pitch-to-contact reliever. Rogers relies on soft contact, and sometimes soft contact isn’t enough to prevent base hits. Rogers would love to tell you he has the same outlook and concentration on every pitch whether things are going well or going poorly, although it’s not necessarily the whole truth.
“I’d like to stand here and say it’s the same thing but it probably isn’t,” Rogers said. “You have to have that mindset that the ones that roll through are going to even out and there will be a rocket hit right at somebody or something. You’ve got to play those odds.”
Asked if things have begun to even out this year, Rogers said flatly, “No.”
There are numbers that back up the theory that Rogers for the most part has simply had bad luck. His hard-hit rate of 27 percent is in the top three of major league baseball. Opponents are hitting .307 against him but the “expected” average based on contact is .255. His .5.40 ERA is accompanied by an “expected” ERA of .297.
The solution for manager Gabe Kapler is a simple one. Keep sending Rogers out there.
“I think for Tyler, it’s all a mindset,” Kapler said. “Tyler is going to be at his best when his wins are smaller. `I deliver a sinker or slider in the location I wanted, I got the weak contact I wanted on the ground.’ That’s the win. The win is not us converting it into an out. The win is not avoiding an earned run.
“It’s the process of every pitch, so the frustration of the ball going through the hole — again — doesn’t start to creep in.”
There was evidence of some frustration Tuesday night against the Royals when Rogers didn’t properly back up the plate after a base hit and wasn’t in position to field an overthrow from centerfielder Austin Slater.
“We’re working with Rodge to keep that mindset even in a time of turmoil where things haven’t gone his way so far this season,” Kapler said. “I’m very confident that if we keep giving him opportunities — and we will — he’s going to capitlize on those. He’s going to buzz through the toughest part of lineups and we’re going to go, `How did he just do that against the nastiest part of the other team’s lineup?’ “
ROSTER NEARING FULL STRENGTH
With Brandon Belt having returned from a knee strain and in the lineup at designated hitter, Kapler is enjoying the flexibility he hasn’t always enjoyed this season due to injuries.
“The last couple of days, for the first time, our bench kind of feels deep,” Kapler said. “There’s interesting ways to mix and match. Today we have some righties on the bench, sort of how we envisioned this. (Austin) Slater and (Darin) Ruf) and (Evan) Longoria on the bench at the same time. It gives you a lot of options if Amir Garrett is in the game, which he might be.”
Garrett, a reliever, is the lone lefty on the Royals roster
Luis Gonzalez RF
Mike Yastrzemski CF
Wilmer Flores 3B
Joc Pederson LF
Brandon Belt DH
Thairo Estrada 2B
Brandon Crawford SS
Tommy La Stella 1B
Curt Casali C
Sam Long P
Contributed by local news sources