Taylor Rogers is in the midst of the best couple months of his career so far, one of the best stretches in Twins history, in fact. But it’s been a disappointing September anyway.
Because of the Twins. And because of the twin.
Rogers has appeared in 24 games since July 30, and hasn’t given up a run in any of them, a stretch of 22 innings that includes 26 strikeouts and only two walks. His ERA, bloated all summer by a couple of bad April outings, is down to 2.80, and he has become manager Paul Molitor’s favorite option for late-inning lefthanders.
But pitching well means less to Rogers if his team isn’t in the pennant race — and if his twin brother isn’t in the major leagues.
“Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m here and he’s not, because I haven’t worked any harder than he has,” Rogers said of his identical twin Tyler, a reliever in the Giants system. “I haven’t done anything different from he has. It’s just where you’re at, where you’re drafted. Who gives you an opportunity.”
Rogers was optimistic that the Giants would give Tyler a chance this September, after his righthanded, side-arming brother posted a 2.13 ERA for Class AAA Sacramento, following his 3.08 mark, with 10 saves, a year earlier.
“I really had my hopes up this year that it would happen. But they called him in and told him they weren’t” going to add him to the roster, Rogers said. “I think I was more upset than he was. He doesn’t want anybody feeling sorry for him. He’s got a good mind-set.”
Still, the chance to become the 10th pair of twins to play in the majors is a goal the Rogerses, now 27, have had for a long time.
“If you think about it, baseball’s been around 150 years, to only have 10 sets to do it, that’s pretty sweet,” Taylor said. “I know it’ll happen one day. We’ve just taken different paths. We look the same, but we’re completely different pitchers, apples and oranges on the mound. He just has to take his own path, and I do the same, and we’re both rooting for each other.”
There has been plenty to root for this year. Taylor Rogers established himself as a valuable member of the Twins bullpen in 2016, and last season led all major league relievers in holds. But this year, concerned that his fastball-and-curveball approach wasn’t giving him enough options, especially against righthanders, Rogers developed a third pitch.
“Incorporating a slider has been good, as a whole. You work on something every day for awhile, it has a tendency to get better,” he said. “It’s still in the working stages, but I’ve been using it since May, and it’s giving hitters a new look.”
Rogers has thrown his slider 13 percent of his pitches this year, according to Fangraphs, but it has been much higher during his scoreless streak. He is still almost unhittable by lefties — they are hitting .188 against him this year, and Rogers has somehow not given up an extra-base hit to a lefthander all season — but the slider had helped him limit righthanders to a .233 average, more than 50 points lower than 2017.
“It’s been a nice weapon to incorporate, both to give the lefties a look at a second breaking pitch, but also the righties — it’s a tough pitch for them to lay off,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He’s been on a nice run here for quite awhile.”
Longest scoreless inning streaks by Twins relievers:
36 J.C. Romero, 2004 (above)
29 Joe Nathan, 2004
28⅔ Johnny Klippstein, 1965-66
26⅓ Juan Berenguer, 1988
25⅔ Johan Santana, 2002-03
25⅔ Larry Casian, 1993
25⅓ Tom Edens, 1992
22⅔ Joe Nathan, 2009
22 Taylor Rogers, 2018
Only one player in Twins history has appeared in more games and been to the plate more times than Joe Mauer, whose career could end in less than two weeks.
1,939 Harmon Killebrew
1,846 Joe Mauer
1,783 Kirby Puckett
1,747 Kent Hrbek
1,676 Tony Oliva
Most plate appearances in Twins history:
8,018 Harmon Killebrew
7,909 Joe Mauer
7,831 Kirby Puckett
7,137 Kent Hrbek
6,980 Rod Carew
For 80 percent of the AL Central, 2018 has been a forgettable year. But there were still some performances worth celebrating. Here are the MVPs around the rest of the division:
Cleveland: In some seasons, piling up 78 extra-base hits, 101 RBIs, 32 stolen bases and more walks (96) than strikeouts (72), as Jose Ramirez (above) has done, would be enough to earn the AL MVP award. Ramirez, or almost-as-qualified teammate Francisco Lindor, don’t figure to take the big prize, but they’re back in the playoffs.
Detroit: Nicholas Castellanos will head into a contract year next spring as the Tigers’ leader in hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs, not to mention batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Yet it’s not clear yet whether Detroit intends to lock up their only consistent threat in the lineup with a long-term deal.
Chicago: They used the season to give their young team some experience, but nobody had a break-out year. Well, in the lineup, anyway. Lefthander Carlos Rodon, who missed two months with a shoulder injury, returned to deliver on his first-round-pick promise, reeling off nine consecutive quality starts at one point.
Kansas City: His power numbers are down a bit from last year, but Whit Merrifield has established himself, in just his second full season, as the most reliable hitter in Kansas City’s admittedly depleted lineup. An .802 OPS from the leadoff spot is respectable, and Merrifield will likely lead the AL in steals for the second straight year.