Friday, October 13, 2006

Sad week for Philadelphia

This past weekend, legendary Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Frank Dolson died after a brave fight with cancer and heart troubles. He was 73.

On the day Dolson was remembered at a well-attended memorial service, the city learned that Cory Lidle, the former Phillies pitcher, was at the controls of the private plane that crashed in Manhattan, killing Lidle and his flight instructor. Lidle was 34 and left behind a wife and six-year-old son.

Two days after that tradegy, the Phillies issued another somber release, announcing yet another loss in the Philaldelphia sports family.

Johnny Callison, a smooth-hitting lefthander and three-time All-Star outfielder with the Phillies, had died Thursday night after a long illness. He was 67.

Rogers Personifies Dominating Ace

DETROIT - Just as a bat has a sweet spot, so do major-league pitching rotations.
It's the turn teams depend on when they need their sagest, most undaunted arm to dominate and inspire.
In Detroit, that spot belongs to Kenny Rogers, the veteran pitcher who has refused to allow the opposition so much as a postseason run in two starts.
Rogers stretched his scoreless streak to 15 innings in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series yesterday against Oakland, allowing the mesmerized Athletics just two hits over 71/3 innings.
When sizzling second baseman Placido Polanco delivered a first-inning RBI single, Rogers had all he would need for what ultimately became a 3-0 victory at Comerica Park.
Because Rogers put the Athletics' bats in an even deeper freeze than the one that gripped Detroit yesterday, a storied franchise pulled within one victory of its first World Series since 1984.
The A's will send righthander Dan Haren (14-13) to the mound todaycq to try to prevent a sweep from the best-of-seven series in four games.
Detroit will counter with righty Jeremy Bonderman (14-8).
Of the previous 28 league championship series best-of-sevens to start 3-0, 22 have resulted in four-game sweeps. Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox survived such a deficit (against the New York Yankees).
It will be the second time Rogers has made it possible for the 23-year-old Bonderman to clinch a series, thanks to his having awed a series opponent for a second consecutive outing.
"You can't pitch better than that," A's rightfielder Milton "0-for-4" Bradley said. "I had respect for Kenny Rogers before, but - this may tick people off - I almost felt like going over there and giving him a high five, he pitched that good."
Only one A's batter reached scoring position against Rogers, and that was in the first inning.
Rogers (17-8 regular-season, 2-0 postseason) cleaned up the thin threat by inducing Jay Payton to hit into an inning-ending force-out.
Frank Thomas, the A's powerful designated hitter, was especially frustrated. The only hit associated with him was the one he absorbed when Rogers plunked him in the side in the first inning - on purpose, a message pitch, Thomas later speculated.
Message or not, from then on, Rogers bruised more egos than the A's would bruise his pitches.
"Crafty pitcher . . . pitches to the park . . . lot of off-speed stuff," said Thomas, reciting a now familiar litany of the hitters left in Rogers' wake. "Ground balls, pop-ups. . . . That's Kenny, a veteran - he's been doing that for years."
The hard-luck loser was Rich Harden. Little could the A's starter know that hitting Curtis Granderson to lead off the bottom of the first, then yielding consecutive singles to Craig Monroe and Polanco and a run-scoring grounder by Magglio OrdoƱez was, for all intents, the ball game.
When the two runs grew to three on a Monroe homer in the fifth inning, the Tigers had a lead as secure as Fort Knox.
Rogers pitched into the eighth. After a walk and a force-out, his day was done. Seconds after he left the field waving his cap to the standing, roaring crowd of 41,669, Rogers saw his shutout preserved when reliever Fernando Rodney got pinch-hitter Bobby Kielty to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Rogers has pitched 15 scoreless innings in two playoff games, the first 72/3 against the Yankees in the AL division series.
All told, the 41-year-old Rogers has surrendered all of seven hits in his two starts, proof that the self-deprecating pitcher who claims to not have A-caliber stuff has perhaps something even more important.
"I believe in myself," he said. "I believe I can make pitches and I'll find a way."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland declined to say these were the most dominant back-to-back postseason performances he's ever witnessed, reminding all to remember a guy named John Smoltz, owner of a record 15 postseason victories.
"But I tell you this: It couldn't be any better," Leyland said. "It's a little-bit-different type of stuff, but nobody could have pitched better than what Kenny has the last two outings, including John Smoltz."
For Kenny Rogers, how sweet that is.

Swisher, phone home

DETROIT - A's manager Ken Macha has expressed concern that second-year first baseman Nick Swisher may have been pressing when he went 0 for 6 with five strikeouts in the first two AL Championship Series games.

Macha's advice for Game 3?

"I was going out to eat [Thursday night] and he was standing on the corner on the cell phone, and I said, 'Nick, singles are OK. Nick, singles!' " Macha said with laugh before Game 3.

Not many laughs could be hear after Game 3, though. Not after the Tigers, led by Kenny Rogers, shut out Oakland on two hits. Swisher? He went 0-for-1 with two walks, a good night all things considered.
DETROIT - Weather, not a conflict over which league's playoff game deserved prime-time coverage, was the reason Game 3 of the American League Championship Series between the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers started at 4:30 p.m. yesterday, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.

Game 2 of the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the host New York Mets, pushed back into what originally was a day off by Wednesday's rainout of Game 1, got the 8:05 p.m. time slot.

"I talked to all four teams yesterday in the morning, because I'd been up worrying about things," Selig said. "I said, 'I want you guys to tell me what you think you should do. You're there. I'm not in Detroit; I'm in Milwaukee, where it's colder than hellok-ds,' " Selig said before Game 3 started at a frigid Comerica Park.

"By noon, I had talked to all four clubs again - and a lot of meteorologists. Detroit said they'd rather play earlier because of this [forecast of cold and possible late-evening rain]. And the Mets said because of rain [expected] earlier in the day, we'd rather play at night. So it was easy."

As it was, the game-time temperature was 42 degrees, made to feel all the colder by winds gusting at 24 m.p.h. throughout the day Clouds and a threat of rain also hovered over the heavily bundled Tigers crowd one day after Detroit was hit by hail, sleet, snow flurries, high winds, and, incongruously, a spate of sun showers.