Rogers humbles mighty Yankees as Tigers take 2-1 series leadOct 7, 2006 - 3:35 AM DETROIT (Ticker) -- Coming into the series, everybody doubted the Detroit Tigers and Kenny Rogers. The New York Yankees now may be doubting themselves.
Rogers pitched 7 2/3 outstanding innings to hush the critics as the Tigers posted a 6-0 victory over Randy Johnson and the New York Yankees to take a two-games-to-one lead in their American League Division Series matchup.
Despite watching his team start the season with a 76-36 record, Detroit manager Jim Leyland stated after Game Two's 4-3 victory that he hoped "everybody believes we are a playoff team, because I think a lot of people didn't think so." If Leyland's club did not create believers on Thursday, it sure caught the Yankees' attention with this effort.
"I think a lot of people may have had us like David vs. Goliath or whatever, but I think we all felt like we had a chance," Rogers said. "I just tried to show what I could do and show that I'm a different guy, because they have shown that they can wear out the other guy."
The much-maligned Rogers (1-0) has a history of big-game meltdowns and second-half failures. He was 0-7 with a 9.21 ERA in his last 11 starts against New York - although the former Yankee had pitched against them just three times over the last six years. He also had been 0-3 with an 8.85 ERA all-time in the postseason.
"I really wanted to leave everything out there," a teary-eyed Rogers said. "I was more emotionally into this game than any other I have ever pitched. ... I wanted this game worse than any other in my life."
New York's offense, which has been compared to the top hitting teams of all time, was 0-for-18 with runners on base and went from the fourth inning of Game Two to the seventh inning of Game Three without advancing a baserunner.
"We have to forget about everything and just play baseball," Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon said. "It's tough when your back is against the wall, but someone has to step up. We need a big game from someone tomorrow."
New York's lineup in Game Three had a collective .391 all-time average against Rogers, but it was the 41-year-old who got the last laugh. The lefthander yielded just five hits and two walks and struck out eight to improve to 7-1 with a 2.06 ERA over his last 10 starts.
"I don't know if it validates (my career), but I just tried to prove to everybody who said I couldn't do this, couldn't do that. I had been battered around by these guys the past couple of years, but my teammate were behind me. I just wanted to win for myself, my team and my family.
"I'm just taking it all in."
Rogers did not allow a batter to reach third base and kept New York hitless with runners on. He worked around leadoff doubles in the fifth and seventh innings, a leadoff single in the second and walk to open the third.
"Kenny Rogers, he's pitched for a long time and there's a reason for it," New York manager Joe Torre said. "You know, he was on a roll tonight. He kept us off-balance, moved the ball around, changed speeds. And you could see the fire at the end there with him. He just wanted to finish it himself. "
Rogers left to a standing ovation after striking out Bobby Abreu for the second out of the eighth inning. Rogers tipped his cap and waived to the fans several times as he walked toward the dugout, where he was greeted by his jubilant teammates.
"That's not the Kenny Rogers I remember," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "He was phenomenal tonight. He was definitely on an emotional high, which isn't how he usually is. It was amazing."
Joel Zumaya got the last out of the eighth and closer Todd Jones pitched a perfect ninth to close out the American League East Division champs.
"As the game went on and we added a couple of more runs, they became impatient at the plate," Leyland said. "But I can promise you that won't happen tomorrow. It will be a whole new chapter."
Detroit gave Rogers all he needed when they scratched across three runs on four hits against Johnson in the second inning. Carlos Guillen opened the frame with a single to center field and Ivan Rodriguez followed with a bloop base hit to right on a ball on which Abreu did not get a good jump.
Sean Casey then singled under the glove of second baseman Robinson Cano, plating Guillen for a 1-0 lead. Rodriguez appeared to be thrown out by Abreu at third base, but umpire Larry Vanover ruled him safe, claiming third baseman Alex Rodriguez did not apply the tag.
"We played some good baseball tonight," Casey said. "I think seeing how Kenny (Rogers) was pitching early on, we knew if we got a few runs that we would have a good chance of winning tonight."
After Brandon Inge struck out, Curtis Granderson plated a run with a grounder and stole second before Placido Polanco hit a soft single up the middle for a 3-0 lead.
Johnson, pitching with a herniated disc in his back, did not allow another hit until Guillen's two-out single off shortstop Derek Jeter's glove. Ivan Rodriguez plated him with a double down the left field line, and Casey followed with an RBI two-base hit to the right-center, making it 5-0.
Johnson (0-1), who was scratched from his final regular-season start, was charged with five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked two, struck out four and fell to 2-8 all-time in division series games.
"I hadn't pitched in a while," Johnson said. "I did what I could. I thought I was OK, but Kenny (Rogers) was just great. You can't do much more than that against our offense."
Four Tigers had two hits apiece and Granderson belted his second homer of the series in the eighth for Detroit, which entered the playoffs with 31 losses in its last 50 games.
Jorge Posada recorded two hits for the Yankees, who are 2-9 in their last 11 postseason games and look a lot like the 2005 edition which could not come up with a key hit in their ALDS loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
"We're a better ballclub than that," Torre said. Offensively, we came up empty tonight and didn't do all of the things we needed to do to win. We just couldn't do anything, and when we started with base hits, we just, you know, couldn't produce. "Not much to talk about; we didn't do it."
With Jeremy Bonderman on the mound Saturday, Detroit will try to close out New York, which is going with Jaret Wright. Since the inception of interleague play, teams that have won the third game after being tied at 1-1 have gone on to capture 25 of 33 series.
"It won't be an easy task to win tomorrow," Tigers manager Jim Leyand said. "We are going to have our hands full and we know that. Hopefully, and I think the big key for us tomorrow will be Bonderman's performance."
The winner of the series will play the Oakland Athletics in the AL Championship Series. The Athletics completed an ALDS sweep of the Minnesota Twins with an 8-3 victory earlier Friday.
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