'He'll be a weapon': Rookie catcher Jake Rogers helps Tigers cut down Mariners
Detroit — Tigers rookie catcher Jake Rogers just shrugged it off.
"Nah," he said. "I just like to do it. It feels good to throw people out. It's something where I look for it and I kind of have a knack for it."
His manager and teammates were considerably more impressed.
"Jake made two throws tonight that kept us out of bad situations," said Tigers starter Edwin Jackson, who pitched five solid innings in the Tigers' 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday. "I just can't stress enough how big those plays were in this game."
Ron Gardenhire, who has tried to keep the hyperbole to a minimum regarding the highly-touted Rogers, didn't hold back this time.
"You see the release and how quick his feet are," he said. "That pick-off happened like lightning. Really quick with his feet and boom, perfect throw. As advertised. We seen him do it in spring training and now we see it here.
"It's pretty fun to watch. He'll be a weapon other teams will definitely have to watch out for."
Rogers' throwing arm had gained legendary status in the minor leagues, throwing out 49 percent of base-stealers in four seasons. But he had yet to make much of an impact in the big leagues.
Four of the first six stolen-base attempts against him in his brief time in the big leagues were successful. Wednesday night, though, Rogers demonstrated what all the fuss was about.
He ended the third inning by gunning down the speedy Keon Broxton trying to steal second base. But his best throw came in the seventh, and it was to first base.
The Tigers were clinging to the skinny, one-run lead and two of the fastest Mariners players — Broxton and Mallex Smith — slapped two-out singles off lefty reliever Gregory Soto.
Gardenhire made the curious decision to bring in right-hander Buck Farmer to face left-handed hitting J.P. Crawford, who was hitting just .181 against lefties and .267 against right-handers.
"Soto was at 38 pitches and the guy was 0-for-6 against Buck," Gardenhire said. "I just didn't want (Soto) to give it up there, maybe misfire and load the bases. Buck came in and had a little leeway there with a base open."
As Farmer fell behind Crawford 2-0, Rogers and first baseman John Hicks, who is the club's back-up catcher, made eye contact. They both noticed Smith getting an aggressive secondary lead.
"He was getting a big lead over there, a little too far for my liking," Rogers said. "I looked over at Hicks and gave a little head nod."
Said Gardenhire: "We have a catcher at first base looking for that kind of thing, too. They made eye contact and put a back-pick on. That was a massive play for us. That's the kind of play we want these guys to look around for.
"That's how you play this game. You get yourself out of a lot of trouble like that."
Rogers, with a quick pivot, whistled a throw right on the bag and Hicks applied the tag.
"Normally when you pick you want to go inside (on a left-handed hitter), but I wanted to stay away from Crawford there," Rogers said. "Didn't want to make a mistake over the middle. It feels good. Just trying to search for outs, you know.
"It was a big situation right there and I want to help the team out. It was good for Hicks to be looking for it, too."
It didn't look so good from the other side, as it ended up being the Mariners' last chance to score. Farmer punched out three batters in the eighth and closer Joe Jimenez locked it down with a clean ninth.
"It’s game awareness," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "You have to understand where you’re at in the game, what the situation is, what the score is. Certainly nowhere to go.
"I give them credit. They executed the play. They were looking for it. We gave them an opportunity and they took advantage of it. "
It was the Tigers' first win over the Mariners in six games this season and it ended a three-game losing streak.
Jackson, the ageless wonder, limited the Mariners to four hits over five innings. Two of those hits, though, left the yard — solo home runs by Crawford and Daniel Vogelbach.
The Tigers produced eight hits off Mariners starter Marco Gonzales in the second and third innings, but probably expected to come away with more than three runs.
They loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but didn’t score until Victor Reyes dropped a two-out, two-run single into shallow center field.
"That was a big at-bat," Gardenhire said. "He fouled off some tough pitches and then got one off the label. But that didn't matter, it hit the outfield grass and that's all that mattered."
Miguel Cabrera led off the third with a double into the corner in right field. It was the 574th of his career, tying him with Bobby Abreu for the most by a Venezuelan-born player. It also ties him with Tigers Hall-of-Famer Charlie Gehringer for 23rd on baseball’s all-time list.
But Cabrera got a little overzealous. He ran through the stop sign of third-base coach Dave Clark and tried to score on a single by Niko Goodrum. Center fielder Broxton threw him out by several feet.
Goodrum alertly took second on the throw and scored on a base hit by Harold Castro, one of his three hits on the night.
"It was a fun ballgame," Gardenhire said. "Really tense if you are sitting in the manager's chair, just because we want to win so badly. These guys are giving you everything they have.
"It was a nice win."