Monday, October 23, 2006

Rogers Dishing Dirt, Dealing Victories

DETROIT - The forecast was chilly, with a strong chance of an early onset of winter.

No, not the blanket of cold, wet, foreboding weather that hung over frigid Detroit last night but rather the wintry outlook that faced the American League champion Tigers last nightif they had lost to the NL pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals for a second time in the first two games of the 102d World Series.

Detroit needed, if not heat, then certainly some fire. And no one on the Tigers' 25-man roster seemed better equipped to bring that than Kenny Rogers, the 41-year-old lefthander who has reinvented himself as an emotional team leader.
Last night, Rogers stretched his storybook second season by stopping St. Louis, well, cold, 3-1.

Craig Monroe's home run that powered a two-run first was all the hottest pitcher in the postseason needed. Rogers did the rest, extending his postseason excellence to 23 scoreless innings - second all-time behind Christy Mathewson's 27.

"This is what it's all about, to come in here and do something like this," said Rogers, now 3-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA in the postseason after allowing just St. Louis just two singles - one an infield hit - in eight innings.

St. Louis' only run - unearned - did not come until the ninth, against stopper Todd Jones.

Rogers dominated despite a mini-tempest in the form of an in-game investigation of a substance on his pitching hand during the first inning.
He later said it was nothing more than a clump of dirt mixed with a little rosin.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa? Though he huddled with umpires before the second inning, he preferred to say nothing much after the loss.

"I wouldn't discuss it," he said. "When a guy pitches like that, as a team, we don't take things away from anybody."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland's take: "Tony went out and said a couple balls were acting a little funny. So [the umpires] made him wash his hands. . . . And he was pretty clean the rest of the way."

"What they [the umpires] are doing is they're trying to remove doubt in that situation, and that's exactly what they did," Steve Palermo, the supervisor of umpires, said after the game.

With a controversy averted, the Series now moves to St. Louis and resumes Tuesdaytomorrow. Detroit lefthander Nate Robertson and St. Louis' Cy Young candidate, Chris Carpenter, will open the first of three games scheduled at Busch Stadium.

Both teams started the frosty evening hopeful that their Game 2 experience would merely include the flurry of white towels waved by the more than 40,000 Tigers fans rather than the snow flurries forecasters said were possible.

Local television weather stations had reported Detroit to be 40 degrees - before the sun went down - with a windchill of 30 degrees. And ominous warnings of "chances of rain/snow" crawled across television screens around Comerica Park well into the evening.

Precipitation never materialized. Not so the building anticipation of how a pitcher branded unreliable in previous postseasons again lifted all of Detroit just by toeing the mound.

"You feed off it," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge had said of Rogers' postseason run. ". . . And that's what wins games and series."

The Tigers had to know their chances of doing the latter would improved tremendously if Rogers won this game. Only 11 of the 50 teams that fell behind by 2-0 in World Series - 22 percent - ultimately won.

Tigers hitters, stymied so badly by little-known rookie Anthony Reyes in Game 1, awakened somewhat against righthander Jeff Weaver.

Monroe's second homer in the Series, with one out in the first, was followed by an RBI double by Carlos Guillen. "Fortunately for me, I got a fastball down the middle and I took a good swing," said Monroe, who extended his franchise record for postseason home runs to five.

Weaver allowed nine hits but only one more run through five.
"He pitched well enough to win, if we could have done something better offensively," La Russa said.

Rogers did not allow that, though. In fact, he allowed nothing - zilch - beyond Scott Rolen's two-out infield single in the first and Yadier Molina's harmless leadoff single in the eighth.

"He's on a mission," Leyland said.

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