Jake Rogers sparkles again as Tigers give Mariners a three-homer send-off
Detroit — Really, all Jake Rogers is looking for is a chance to steal a base. Is that asking too much?
"I'm just trying to run the bases well, trying to show (manager AJ) Hinch that I need to get some bags and get him to give me the green light," Rogers joked after the Tigers beat the Mariners, 8-3, Thursday before a matinee crowd of 9,290 at Comerica Park. "Because he won't do it. He's yet to give it to me.
"Maybe one of these days he'll see that I'm athletic and I can run a little bit."
Rogers had himself a day, a series, really. After hitting a 423-foot home run to right-center on Wednesday night, he launched a 413-foot moon shot into the left-field seats in the second inning Thursday. He also created another run with his legs in the fourth.
Rogers reached on an error by second baseman Donovan Walton, which sent Niko Goodrum around to third base with no outs. Willi Castro’s fly ball to left field was easily deep enough to score Goodrum, but Rogers boldly tagged and beat the throw at second base.
He scored on a single by Robbie Grossman to put the Tigers up 5-2 at the time.
"(Mariners starter) Justus Sheffield had a big leg kick," Rogers said. "I told George (Lombard) and Hinch, 'Man, let me get a bag here.' They shot me down. But at least I got Willi an at-bat and Robbie knocked me in."
Rogers wasn't done. In the seventh, after Goodrum got picked off first with a runner at third and one out, Rogers rescued the inning with a 420-foot missile to the base of the wall in center field.
It was his first career triple.
"I thought it might be an inside-the-parker," Rogers said, again tongue-in-cheek. "But when I got around second Chip (Hale, third base coach) was already like this (both arms out, telling him to hold up). I guess it was always going to be just a triple."
In the last two games, Rogers is 3-for-6, with two homers, a triple, four runs scored and three runs driven in. And, he got the WWE-styled championship belt for offensive player of the game.
Which you'd think would give him some sway with the manager.
"I gave him a hard time for not backing up first base on a play," Hinch said. "I will keep him humble."
Understand, this is the nature of the catcher, ex-catcher turned manager relationship. It's tough love, but it's 100% love.
"Jake's playing with a lot of confidence, you can see it," Hinch said. "The heartbeat is slow. He's playing the game clean behind the plate. He provides a lot of stability for us when he contributes on both sides of the ball.
"I'm very happy with him. I've got a great rapport with him. I don't let him get away with anything."
The Tigers offense took away the worry of throwing a bullpen game at the Mariners. Hinch filled injured starter Spencer Turnbull’s spot in the rotation with a convoy of relievers — led by Tyler Alexander, who started and went 2⅔ innings and rookie Jason Foley, who also covered two innings.
"You need a lot of guys to have good days out of the pen and just keep handing the baton to the next guy," Hinch said. "We kept tacking on runs, which gave us room to breathe."
Besides Rogers, Jonathan Schoop and Grossman also homered.
"Robbie's homer was a big blow to them because it gave us some separation," Hinch said. "When you score early, especially in a bullpen game where I'm trying to piece it together, I felt a lot better getting some runs."
The Tigers had seven extra-base hits, besides the home runs, in the series. A lot of those were hit in the gaps in right and left center. The Tigers took advantage of the Mariners deploying center fielder Taylor Trammell as shallow as any outfielder has at Comerica Park.
"That was the most aggressive defensive alignment I've seen," Hinch said. "I love it. I love aggressive defense. We got some over his head a couple of times, but he also made some good running catches and took some away in front of him.
"Clearly it was something they're toying with in their research and advance scouting. You can take away a single, but what you give up is the ability to go all the way back. Our outfield is super deep."
On Wednesday both Isaac Paredes (triple) and Akil Baddoo (double) hit balls over Trammell in center. On Thursday, Rogers and Schoop got him.
"We were talking about that in the dugout the whole series," Rogers said. "Guys are hitting it and he's running it down. He's athletic and he's always been able to run balls down. He was running all over the place today.
"When he came into the box for his last at-bat I said, 'Man, you're legs have to be tired.' He said, yeah, they were. I said, 'That's what you get for being fast.'"
Bet his manager lets him steal a base now and then.
"(Hinch) was giving me crap for not backing up on the bases," Rogers said. "He was yelling at me in front of the dugout. I said, 'I'm sorry, I screwed up. I was talking to the umpire.' Thankfully it was a good throw or we wouldn't be joking about it right now.
"He gave me grief, but I have the belt. I told him, 'Maybe it's OK if I have the belt.' He said, OK."