Courtesy of Jane Tyska/Getty Images
As with everyone in baseball these days, you can't win without your bullpen. The Giants found out the hard way after the pen poured gasoline on a fire started by the Dodgers who were leading, 2-1 in the top of the 6th inning in Game 2.
By the time the smoke cleared, the boys in blue had put up a four spot thanks to a pair of two-run doubles by Cody Bellinger and AJ Pollack on consecutive pitches thrown by Dominic Leone. Following a 9-2 loss to the Dodgers, the National League Division Series is nodded up at a game apiece. Game 3 is Monday night at Dodger Stadium. The pitching matchup is Max Scherzer vs. Alex Wood.
One of the unsung heroes in the Giants' pen is submariner Tyler Rogers. His delivery style is a throwback to Brad Ziegler and Chad Bradford. But if you go farther back, Kent Tekulve of the Pirates and the late Dan Quisenberry of the Royals come to mind. Rogers is fun to watch pitch because of his unorthodox delivery and while he only tops out at 82-83 mph vs. 95-100 like most hard throwing relievers, he doesn't mind at all.
"I probably make fun of myself more about it. But I like messing with people," Rogers said to a group of reporters in the interview room prior to Game 2. "Like, the videos that they play for like Jake McGee and (Camilo) Doval, like they show like fire behind the ball or whatever, and I was like, You can't put fire behind 82? What? (Laughing)."
Rogers is also a fan of those submariners that came before him. I asked how much he knew about them. He said, "Yeah, I tried looking at like videos of those older guys. There's not a lot out there on them, unfortunately."
Especially in today's modern game, almost everyone in the bullpen is a flame thrower but the key to pitching is to disrupt timing. Any major leaguer can and will hit a hard fastball if it lacks movement. Part of the success of a reliever is their ability to throw pitches at various speeds. By releasing the ball at a different "arm-slot", it makes it harder for the batter to see the ball out of the pitcher's hand before making a split-second decision whether to swing at the pitch, or not.
What was Tyler's motivation to choose to pitch underhand vs. 3/4 like most pitchers?
"It was just a lot of trial and error, to be honest with you," Rogers said. "And it's something that I was a hundred percent committed to doing. I wanted to try to throw sidearm at the time, and the submarine delivery honestly just kind of found me."
Tyler also says he never converted to this style of pitching so he could make it to the Major Leagues or have an advantage. He does credit his college coach at Garden City Community College, Chris Finnegan to converting him from sidearm to submariner.
In doing so, Rogers saved 13 games and posted a 2.67 ERA in his sophomore season and transferred to Austin Peay where he saved 35 games over his final two seasons. In his senior year he was 7-2 with 23 saves and a 1.63 ERA. He was drafted in the 10th round by the Giants with the 312th overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft.
Six years later on August 27, 2019, the Giants promoted him to the Majors. He finished 2019, 2-0 in 17 games with a 1.02 ERA. In 17 2/3 innings: he allowed 12 hits, three walks, and 16 strikeouts. He struggled in 2020 going 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 29 games. In 28 innings he surrendered 31 hits and 14 earned runs with 27 strikeouts.
This season, he became a premier set-up man for closer McGee and rookie Doval. Pitching in 80 games he was 7-1 with a 2.22 ERA. He logged 13 saves and in 81 innings, allowed 74 hits, 20 earned runs, only five home runs, 13 walks, and 55 strikeouts.
In Game 1 of the NLDS, Rogers pitched 1/3 of an inning to finish the 8th needing only two pitches to retire Corey Seager who grounded out to second base.
Although Kevin Gausman allowed four runs in his 5 1/3 innings in Game 2, the bullpen allowed his inherited runners to score. But as Manager Gabe Kapler pointed out to me after Game 1, he's not worried about using anyone because of rest days on Sunday and Wednesday.
"I think in the playoffs, just knowing that you have an off day coming for sure makes it a little bit easier to -- guys can pitch almost every day," Kapler said. "I don't think you necessarily want them to, I mean, obviously you would like to have cleaner innings, more efficient innings for your relievers, but suppose we had used four relievers today, I don't think that there would be any reason that we couldn't use those same four relievers tomorrow since we have the off day. Not saying that that's how we would do it, but it's just not as big a concern as it was down the stretch for us."
While it's not yet a "must win" game, if the Giants lose Game 3, then they would be facing an elimination game. It's going to be tough with Max Scherzer on the mound. However, Scherzer only pitched 4 1/3 innings in the Wild Card game vs. St. Louis. That's the shortest outing by Scherzer in his career in the postseason.
And in his final two regular season starts, Scherzer pitched 5 1/3 and 5 innings respectively allowing five earned runs in each outing. Although he got the win both times, that is not doing your job as a starting pitcher. When the Giants swept the Tigers in the 2012 World Series, Scherzer opposed Matt Cain. While neither factored in the decision, the Giants ultimately won Game 4 to complete the sweep so anything is possible. Personally it would be a big relief if Alex Wood can outduel Scherzer and that's probably the reason why Wood is starting Game 3 over Anthony DeSclafani.
First pitch for Game 3 is at 6:37 PM and the game is televised on TBS.
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Reliever Dominic Leone after the Giants 9-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLDS on October 9, 2021.
Third Baseman Kris Bryant sat down with the media before Sunday's game to discuss what it feels like to be traded to San Francisco.
Manager Bruce Bochy after the Giants 9-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 29, 2019. This was his final game as Giants manager.