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Josh Rogers not at his best in Nationals’ 6-4 loss to Pirates in PNC

Josh Rogers struggled on the mound last night, tweaked his ankle at one point, and generally was not at his best...

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Josh Rogers held the Atlanta Braves to two hits, two walks, and one run in 5 13 innings on the mound in Truist Park in his 2022 debut, holding the defending World Series champs in check in an 11-2 win for Washington.

Rogers, 27, didn’t make the Nationals’ 28-man, 2022 Opening Day rotation, but he went out to Triple-A Rochester for a brief stay and then returned when Aníbal Sánchez landed on the IL before making his first start.

Rogers picked up where he left off late last season after he joined the Nationals’ big league rotation in Georgia.

His manager didn’t expect anything less.

“That’s not who he is, and I talked to him,” Davey Martinez said when asked if Rogers was down after not making the Nationals’ rotation at the end of Spring Training.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

“Of course you’re going to be down because you wanted to make the team, but I said, ‘Hey, like I said, you’re going to be up here, be patient, we’re going to need you, and you’ll be the first one we call if we need a starter. So he went down there and he was patient and he came up here, and [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and I talked before the game and we kind of said about 75 pitches we’re going to have to keep an eye on him, and he was right at 74, so...”

“He finished strong for us last year,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the Fan in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday.

“We like his tempo and rhythm on the mound. He works fast, throws strikes, he’s not afraid, and those are all prerequisites of a guy that fits our rotation, and yeah, you’re not supposed to be happy when you get sent out of the big leagues and he wasn’t, and that is a credit to his competitiveness, and whenever we’ve called on him he’s been ready.”

Going into start No. 2, Rogers’ manager talked about what the southpaw needed to do to be successful on the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates last night in PNC Park.

“He understands that in order for him to compete and do well, he’s got to pound the strike zone and get ahead of hitters,” Martinez said.

“He did that in his last outing, so we’re hoping that he can that today.”

Rogers gave up a single and a walk in a scoreless, 21-pitch first, then allowed a one-out walk, RBI double, and an RBI single in the second inning as the Pirates took a 2-1 lead.

Rogers turned his ankle at one point in the second, but the lefty kept going and gave the club 4 13 innings before reliever Steve Cishek took over, with one runner Rogers left on scoring to put the Pirates up 3-2 after five in what ended up a 6-4 loss for the starter and the Nationals.

Josh Rogers’ Line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks, 76 P, 50 S, 5/5 GO/FO.

Asked to assess his own outing after the game, Rogers said succinctly, “Not very good.”

“Behind in counts from the get-go out there,” he explained, “it was just really unfortunate.

“Had a good bullpen to warm up and felt awesome going into the game, and sometimes that’s just how it goes, and really competed and grinded there those first two innings, and just was pulling off of everything and just behind in the count.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s tough to pitch at this level when you’re behind in the count. And to grind out — to get into the fifth was good, but wasn’t my best today.”

“I thought he struggled earlier,” Rogers’ manager said. “I thought he gave us what he had there, he had a little bit of ankle issue, so we thought that was good enough. I liked Cishek there in that moment, try to see if we could get a ground ball right there, but he came back, and he threw the ball well. He was opening up earlier in the game, he started opening up, but he finally gathered himself and got himself together and started pitching better.”

Rogers agreed with his manager’s assessment.

“I think just in that third — after that second inning I kind of found that rhythm a little bit,” he said.

“But really just got to do a better job of getting ahead on guys, and two walks is terrible for me. I can’t give up free bases. And I know that. So giving up those walks are no good, and it seems like every time we scored or put up a run, it’s like I go out there and give up a run and have traffic, and couldn’t get us back in the dugout today, so all and all I would not say it was a very good outing.”