Brewers' eight-run fifth nets Rogers his first win

Brewers' eight-run fifth nets Rogers his first win

Brewers' eight-run fifth nets Rogers his first win
MILWAUKEE -- Mark Rogers finally has his first Major League win. All it took was eight years, four surgeries, three would-be wins wiped away by the bullpen and the Brewers' biggest inning in more than two years.

"It's been a long time coming," Rogers said.

He did not have to be perfect this time -- and Rogers certainly was not. He only had to get through the requisite five innings. After he did, Brewers hitters rewarded the right-hander with eight runs in the bottom of the fifth to beat the Cubs, 9-5, on Monday night at Miller Park.

Milwaukee sent 11 men to the plate in its big inning against Cubs starter Justin Germano and reliever Jeff Beliveau. Eight of them reached safely -- including Travis Ishikawa, who pinch-hit for Rogers, delivered an RBI single and then scored the tying run. The go-ahead hit came from Corey Hart, who dumped a two-out, two-run single into right field. The exclamation points came from Jonathan Lucroy, whose three-run home run was his second homer of the night, and Carlos Gomez, who followed Lucroy with a solo blast. Gomez had two hits and scored two runs in the inning.

The outburst was the Brewers' biggest since a nine-run inning in May 2010. It turned a 3-1 deficit into a 9-3 lead, and a potential loss for Rogers into a win. This time, unlike July 29 against the Nationals, Aug. 10 at Houston and Aug. 15 at Colorado, Brewers relievers made the margin stand up.

"I'm glad it worked out, and now we can move on and try to get some more wins for him," said Lucroy, Rogers' catcher. For the 26-year-old Rogers, the win was a symbolic milestone on a long road that began in southern Maine, where he learned work ethic from his lobsterman father and excelled at both hockey and baseball -- choosing the latter, for better and worse. The Brewers made Rogers the fifth overall selection in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, three picks behind Justin Verlander and two ahead of Homer Bailey, and worked with Rogers to correct his cross-body delivery.

The first shoulder injury struck in 2006, and Rogers missed all of '07 and '08 following surgeries. He made it to the Majors for two starts and two relief appearances in September 2010, but had a setback with that shoulder in 2011 Spring Training, then lost starts to a carpal tunnel injury and a 25-game suspension after he tested positive for a banned stimulant. While he sat out, Rogers underwent surgery on both wrists.

But this season, he reclaimed his prospect status with 18 healthy starts at Triple-A Nashville, earning another shot in Milwaukee. Rogers became a father last week when his wife, Kerrie, gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Ellyette Bay.

Monday's win, then, was the second-best moment of Mark's month.

"It's a close second," he said.

"There's been a lot of obstacles on the way here, but I never gave up. Hopefully, this is the first of many."

Rogers fell into a hole after allowing doubles to two of the first three hitters he faced, but struck out the side in the first inning. He faced a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second inning, but limited the damage to one run. He walked the leadoff man in the third, but regained control with a double play.

Rogers allowed Cubs third baseman Josh Vitters' first Major League home run in the fifth inning, but by that point he had rediscovered the strike zone. In five innings, Rogers threw only 50 of his 90 pitches for strikes, but he did not let the game get out of hand, limiting the damage to three runs on five hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts.

He touched 97 mph in the first inning and 96 in the fifth.

"Tonight wasn't my best effort of the year, probably, but the offense was excellent," Rogers said. "They've been great all year, and they picked me up today. And then the bullpen came in and really shut them down, so it was a good win."

It came at Germano's expense after the Cubs starter was charged with seven earned runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"People might think I'm crazy, but I felt like I pitched a lot better than the line shows," he said. "I got ground balls that last inning. They just hit them where guys weren't."

For the Brewers, the question becomes whether Rogers has made his final 2012 start.

"I don't want to say this is his last one," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said before the game, "but we're getting close."

Rogers was limited to 44 1/3 innings last season, and has thrown 124 innings in 2012 between Milwaukee and Nashville. The consensus among club officials is that, for Rogers and several other pitchers, it is nearing the time to call it a season.

Whether the Brewers would simply shut down Rogers for the year or continue to pitch him in relief remains up for discussion, Roenicke said.

"Hard call," he said.

"I don't know exactly how much longer they're going to let me pitch," Rogers said. "I still feel great, and I want to keep it that way. Unfortunately, that's out of my control, but I'm going to keep doing everything I can to prepare to pitch."

At least Rogers has that elusive win under his belt.

"I don't think we've seen the best of him yet, to be honest with you," Lucroy said. "I think he's a lot better than what he's shown. He's trying to find his 'feel.' He goes out there some innings and is just unbelievable, and then other innings he goes out you can tell he's lost his feel. As soon as he gets consistent, he's going to be real special."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.