MOOSIC — Josh Rogers sported a 5-3 record and 2.48 ERA through his first 10 starts of the season. He was arguably the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ best starting pitcher.
But something has happened in each of Roger’s last two starts. Something has been off, and that included Saturday’s start against the Louisville Bats.
After giving up six runs on nine hits in just 1.1 innings June 3 in Indianapolis, Saturday wasn’t much better. The 23-year-old southpaw gave up five runs on 13 hits, including a four-run first inning, and the RailRiders fell to Louisville, 9-4.
The RailRiders, who played as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Melonheads in honor of Backyard Baseball Night, gave up a season-high 20 hits in the loss.
“I wish somebody could tell me because I have no idea right now,” Rogers said with an audible exhale. “I just, I feel like I’m making some decent pitches, but obviously they must not be good enough. The ball’s not really falling, kind of going against me right now, but hopefully I can turn it around.
“I really don’t feel any different. That’s why it’s been really weird. I was telling these guys, like I don’t (know), ‘What’s going on?’ I have to figure something out.”
It was a rocky outing from the start for Rogers.
The southpaw got Louisville third baseman Nick Senzel down to two strikes, but he fought off a delivery into center field. But after Rogers got Hernan Iribarren to fly out to left field, things went downhill for the RailRiders starter.
Five consecutive Louisville batters got on base. RBI singles from Gabby Guerrero and Phillip Ervin provided the Bats with a 2-0 lead before a two-run Mason Williams single to shallow right field gave Louisville all it would need, capping off the four-run frame.
Despite the rough first inning, Rogers was able to give the RailRiders 4.2 innings. But Louisville scored five runs as Rogers gave up a career-worst 13 hits and walked a pair.
“Me and (pitching coach Tommy Phelps) will definitely sit down and look at it (on film). Just see what I’m doing,” Rogers said of where he goes from here. “My breaking ball hasn’t been as good the last three or four starts. The breaking ball hasn’t been as good. Just kind of guiding it in there. Maybe the secondary stuff. Maybe I’m tipping something. We’ll take a look at it.
“Confidence is fine. I’m going to keep throwing strikes and keep competing out there. I know I can do it up here.”
The RailRiders were quickly able to answer Louisville’s four-run frame, scoring two runs of their own in the first inning with Clint Frazier scoring on a passed ball and Billy McKinney driving home Tyler Wade on an RBI single to right field.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre even got runners on second and third thanks to McKinney’s run-scoring drive — the right fielder would make it to second on the throw — but would strand both base runners as Kyle Higashioka struck out and Abiatal Avelino grounded out to third to end the frame.
That would be the RailRiders’ best threat of the night as their only other run came on a Tyler Wade fifth-inning solo shot.
“I think we need to get runs in when we get guys on third with less than two outs,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said. “We need to do a better job of getting people in. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that last night, we didn’t do it tonight. Got to score the runs that you have the chance to score. They did.”
Backyard Baseball Night at PNC Field
The RailRiders swapped nicknames on Saturday, playing as the Melonheads, made famous by the computer video game “Backyard Baseball” from the 1990s and 2000s.
The Melonheads wore a white Melonheads uniform, with the iconic Melonheads logo on the left sleeve. The game-worn jerseys were auctioned off after the game with the proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club.
“Backyard Baseball” creator Nick Mirkovich and developer Matt Mahon were in attendance on Saturday. Mirkovich threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Louisville 9, Melonheads 4
E: Wade (5); PB: Hudson (2); DP: Bats 3, RailRiders 2; LOB: Bats 9, RailRiders 9; 2B: Ervin (6), Hudson (1), Senzel (8), Wade (10), Drury (8); HR: Guerrero (2), Wade (1); SAC: Hudson; SB: Senzel (7), Drury (1); CS: Guerrero (2).
Louisville`400`010`112 — 9
Melonheads`200`010`001 — 4
Finnegan (W, 2-4)`5`6`3`3`3`4
Tapia (H, 3)`1`0`0`0`2`0
Herget (H, 4)`2`0`0`0`1`2
Rogers (L, 5-5)`4.2`13`5`5`2`3
HBP: Higashioka (by Tapia).
Umpires: Skyler Shown, HP; Rich Grassa, 1B; Adam Beck, 3B.
Time: 3:20; Attendance: 9,126.
Today’s Game: The RailRiders wrap up their three-game series against the Louisville Bats at PNC Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
Probable Pitchers: SWB RHP David Hale (1-2, 4.80 ERA) vs. Louisville LHP Cody Reed (2-5, 4.19)
Today at PNC Field: Family FUNday — Kids run the bases after the game, CHAMP’s Kids Club members receive free admission, and kids 12 and under receive a free meal voucher for Jersey Mike’s Subs; FitTrack Day; Military Discount — $2 off walk-up tickets with a Military ID; Wendy’s Kids Club Day.
Riding the Rails: INF/OF Ronald Torreyes recalled by N.Y. Yankees. INF Abiatal Avelino promoted from Double-A Trenton.
On Radio: All RailRiders games can be heard live on NEPA Sports Radio – The Game.
HOW THEY SCORED
LOUISVILLE FIRST: Josh Rogers pitching. Nick Senzel singles to center. With Dilson Herrera batting, Senzel steals second. Herrera walks. Gabriel Guerrero singles to right, Senzel scores, Herrera to third. Phillip Ervin singles to right, Herrera scores, Guerrero to second. D.J. Peterson walks, Guerrero to third, Ervin to second. Mason Williams singles to right, Guerrero scores, Ervin scores, Peterson to second. LOUISVILLE 4-0
RAILRIDERS FIRST: Brandon Finnegan pitching. Clint Frazier walks. Tyler Wade doubles to right, Frazier to third. With Brandon Drury batting, passed ball by C Joe Hudson, Frazier scores, Wade to third. Drury walks. Billy McKinney singles to right, Wade scores, Drury to third, McKinney to second on the throw. LOUISVILLE 4-2
LOUISVILLE FIFTH: Josh Rogers pitching. Phillip Ervin doubles to deep left. D.J. Peterson singles to left, Ervin to third. Blake Trahan singles to center, Ervin scores, Peterson to third, Trahan to second on the throw. LOUISVILLE 5-2
RAILRIDERS FIFTH: Brandon Finnegan pitching. Tyler Wade homers to deep right. RAILRIDERS 5-3
LOUISVILLE SEVENTH: Raynel Espinal pitching. Mason Williams walks. Joe Hudson out a sacrifice bunt to third, Williams to second. Blake Trahan singles to left center, Williams scores. LOUISVILLE 6-3
LOUISVILLE EIGHTH: Brady Lail pitching. Gabby Guerrero homers to deep left center. LOUISVILLE 7-3
LOUISVILLE NINTH: Brady Lail pitching. Joe Hudson doubles to right. Nick Senzel doubles to right, Hudson scores. Cale Coshow replaces Lail. Hernan Iribarren reaches on a throwing error by 2B Tyler Wade. Senzel to third. Dilson Herrera singles to left, Senzel scores, Iribarren to second. LOUISVILLE 9-3
RAILRIDERS NINTH: Zach Neal pitching. Bruce Caldwell singles to right. Clint Frazier grounds into a double play to second, Caldwell out at second. Tyler Wade singles to right. Brandon Drury doubles to deep center, Wade scores. LOUISVILLE 9-4
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle