The most viral Tyler Rogers highlight has not yet occurred, but Kevin Gausman is waiting impatiently for it.
The submariner might as well have been firing torpedoes at Cincinnati’s big bats, the swings were so confused. Three of the better hitters in baseball — Nick Castellanos, Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas — waving at pitches that either just cracked 70 or 80 mph.
Tuesday’s starter was watching from the trainer’s room, but approached Rogers afterward.
“I told him after he came out of the game — that pitch that he struck Moustakas out on was a slider I think above his head,” Gausman said after the 7-6 Giants win at Oracle Park. “And he’s going to hit a lefty in the face one day, and the guy’s probably going to swing, which is crazy to think about. But it’s probably going to happen.”
Moustakas, the three-time All-Star, flailing at a 72-mph slider for strike three will have to do for now.
Rogers was electric, if a righty who nearly scrapes the ground with his knuckles and throws wiffle balls to batters can be electric, in his best outing of the season. Turned to in a topsy-turvy game in which there were eight runs scored in the first inning, before the bats took a break until the late frames, Rogers was asked to hold a one-run edge in the eighth against the heart of the Reds, who have been one of the best hitting teams in baseball.
First it was Castellanos, who looked at an 81-mph fastball and 70-mph slider, both catching corners, before flailing at a wild slider up and out of the zone.
“The slider is coming around,” said Rogers, who acknowledged this is the best he’s been this year. “It didn’t feel too great the first week of the season or so, but it feels like where it should be right now.”
Tyler Rogers had one of the NL's best power hitters swinging out of his shoes pic.twitter.com/4aDid7rWLf
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 14, 2021
Then it was Votto, who only saw three pitches. The six-time All-Star fouled off two low-80s fastballs before a slider that might have whistled as it zoomed past his bat.
“[His slider] actually is pretty effective when he can get it up and out of the zone,” Kapler said after his eighth-inning man lowered his ERA to 1.29. “…There were a couple that were just up, but in the middle of the plate or at least cutting through the middle of the plate. … If hitters aren’t acclimated to that pitch, it’s a tough pitch to judge.”
The Reds had not seen Rogers pitch before, the NL West not meeting the NL Central last year and Rogers called up in 2019 after the Giants had met Cincinnati.
Eugenio Suarez broke through for a two-out double, which brought up Moustakas with the tying run in scoring position. It took four pitches, the last a 72-mph slider angling up and out of the zone and barreling toward the lefty hitter, which he flung his bat at, leading to a rare Rogers fist-pump.
In came Jake McGee, a lefty hurling mid-90s fastballs repeatedly, and the Giants had escaped. Rogers called he and McGee “polar opposites.”
Which they are, except for their results thus far.
“We really have a lot of looks in our bullpen,” the 30-year-old Rogers said. “I think Farhan [Zaidi], that’s kind of his niche is finding different looks throughout the bullpen. I think he’s done a good job of it.”
Kapler said it is not “the easiest thing to do” to take out Tommy La Stella, who was 3-for-3, and put in Donovan Solano for a seventh-inning at-bat against Reds lefty Cionel Perez.
It worked, the righty Solano drawing a walk and coming around to score the go-ahead run on Wilmer Flores‘ sacrifice fly.
“That move is not about La Stella and his ability to continue to have great at-bats,” Kapler said. “It’s much more about Donovan Solano.”
Kevin Gausman allowed a pair of two-run shots in the first, a fifth run in the second and then nothing more. He retired the last 13 batters he faced while striking out seven in six innings.
“Early in the game I just wasn’t able to execute,” Gausman said over Zoom. “Left some pitches up to good home run hitters, and so they did some damage.”
Mike Yastrzemski, who went 2-for-4 with a home run, walk and a pretty bunt single against the shift, said the Giants are “getting closer to clicking as an offense.”
He has shown signs of snapping out of his funk but is still batting .162. After a game in which the entire bench was used and mostly effectively, Yastrzemski saw it as a sign of the depth the Giants possess.
“Everybody should be playing every day,” the outfielder said. “That’s the crazy thing about our lineup. Our guys are that talented.”