Tigers' Rogers suffers first loss since August 12Sep 28, 2006 - 8:47 PM DETROIT (Ticker) -- Kenny Rogers appeared primed to start the playoff opener for the Detroit Tigers - until Thursday.
Rogers failed to make it through the fourth inning, allowing six runs and eight hits, as the first-place Tigers were beaten by the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-6, in the rubber game of their three-game series.
The Tigers (95-64), who have clinched their first playoff berth since 1987, had their lead in the American League Central Division reduced to just one-half game over Minnesota (94-64), which hosts Kansas City on Thursday night.
If Detroit and Minnesota finish tied for first, the Tigers win the tiebreaker based on winning the season series. Detroit hosts Kansas City for its final three games while Minnesota will host the Chicago White Sox this weekend. The second-place team draws the New York Yankees in the AL Division Series.
"We win three games, we're the champs," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "That's one break we've got. If we can't take advantage of it, shame on us. We'll see how it plays out."
Leyland still must decide on his rotation for the first round. Rogers (17-7) appeared to be the favorite to start the opener, but Leyland can also turn to Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman or rookie Justin Verlander.
However, Robertson yielded six runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings in Wednesday's 7-4 loss here.
Rogers, who was 6-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his previous eight starts, lasted just 3 2/3 innings and suffered his first loss since August 12.
"I think we set the bar pretty high for our pitching staff," Rogers said. "We've done pretty well pretty much all year long but we're going to have starts that aren't the norm, and for me and Nate (Robertson) I guess the last two weren't as good."
The veteran lefthander was victimized by poor defense in the first. Alex Rios led off with a grounder to third that Brandon Inge threw past first baseman Sean Casey for a two-base error. Rogers hurt his own cause when he threw a bunt by Frank Catalanotto past Inge for an error as Rios scored. Bengie Molina delivered a two-out, RBI double to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.
"For me, I think, I'm expected to be a little bit better on that play and get my footwork down," Rogers said. "It would have made a difference. It would have been two less so it would have made a difference. It starts it off on the wrong foot but I would have loved to have pitched a little better after that also."
Jason Phillips, Gregg Zaun and Rios singled in the second to increase Toronto's advantage to 3-0.
The Blue Jays scored four times in the fourth. John McDonald and Rios had run-scoring doubles and Vernon Wells knocked out Rogers with a two-out RBI single. Troy Glaus capped the inning with a run-scoring single off reliever Chad Durbin, making it 7-0.
"It was good to beat one of baseball's prime teams," Zaun said. "It shows that we are playing good baseball until the very end. It's a good sign for next year. There's a lot of pride in this locker room."
The Tigers fought back within a run. They loaded the bases with none out in the fourth against A.J. Burnett (9-9) but settled for a sacrifice fly by Craig Monroe.
In the sixth, Omar Infante had an RBI double and Monroe drove in another run with a groundout.
Burnett left with runners at second and third and one out in the seventh. Vance Wilson greeted reliever Jason Frasor with a sacrifice fly and Sean Casey followed with a two-run homer to pull the Tigers within 7-6.
"I think anytime you chip away and get back into a game, you always have that feeling that hey, we're going to get this one," Casey said. "Sometimes you do and sometimes you fall a little short and today we fell a little short."
But the Blue Jays scored an insurance run in the eighth off Mike Maroth. Zaun led off with a ground-rule double, moved to third on a single by Lyle Overbay and scored as Fernando Rodney got McDonald to hit into a double play.
B.J. Ryan pitched a scoreless ninth for his 37th save in 41 opportunities.
"We were swinging the bats real good today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They just kept coming back, but we got that insurance run in the eighth and Ryan finished them off. It was a big all-around win for us."
The win was the 11th in 16 games for the Blue Jays (85-74), who have moved into second place in the AL East, one game ahead of Boston. Toronto has not finished that high in the division since winning the second of its back-to-back World Series titles in 1993.
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