Rogers continues mastery of Athletics, Tigers up 3-0Oct 13, 2006 - 11:43 PM DETROIT (Ticker) -- The Oakland Athletics never like to visit Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.
Kenny Rogers allowed just two hits in 7 1/3 innings as the Detroit Tigers took a commanding three games to none lead in the American League Championship Series with a 3-0 victory over the Athletics.
The Tigers can complete the sweep with a win here on Saturday and reach the World Series for the first time since 1984.
The 41-year-old Rogers was 10-1 in his last 18 starts against Oakland heading into Friday. With the game-time temperature at 38 degrees and winds gusting at 26 miles per hour, Rogers put the Athletics into a deep freeze once again.
The only hits off the lefthander were an infield single by Jason Kendall to lead off the game and a one-out single to right field by Marco Scutaro in the fifth inning. Rogers (2-0) walked two and struck out six.
"I just tried to do what I've done against them which is make good pitches," Rogers said. "It was cold out there. It was hard to grip the ball. But that lineup will walk a lot if you don't make your pitches. I was able to get ahead in the count and make my pitches."
A member of the Athletics from 1998-99, Rogers is 22-7 against his former team.
Fernando Rodney replaced Rogers in the eighth and retired pinch hitter Bobby Kielty on an inning-ending double play.
Todd Jones retired all three batters he faced in the ninth for his second save of the series.
Rogers had been 0-3 with an 8.85 ERA in nine postseason appearances, including five starts, before the Tigers started their playoff run with a stunning victory over the favored New York Yankees in the AL Division Series. Rogers pitched Game Three of that series and ended his playoff jinx with 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
"I've learned from my past experiences in the playoffs," Rogers said. "I'm using my emotion instead of suppressing it. By feeding off my emotion, I'm more aggressive and focused."
Rogers staged quite an encore against the Athletics, who only had one runner reach second base.
"I don't know how anyone could have pitched better than Kenny has in his last two starts," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who won a World Series title with the Florida Marlins in 1997.
"He's awesome, he really is," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said of Rogers. "The last two starts he's had have been unbelievable. He's hit all his spots. The intensity he has out there, it's contagious."
While Detroit has won six straight postseason games, the Athletics are now faced with trying to become only the second team to come back from a three games to none deficit and win a playoff series. The Boston Red Sox were the only team to achieve that against the Yankees in 2004.
"It's not an impossible task," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "We just got to do it one game at a time. I like the four pitchers we have to get it done."
Rich Harden (0-1) got his first postseason start in Game Three and allowed three runs and five hits with five walks in 5 2/3 innings. He was limited to nine regular-season starts - the Athletics won them all - due to back and elbow injuries. Harden's last appearance came on October 1, when he was charged with six runs in just 3 2/3 innings of an eventual 11-10 triumph vs. Anaheim.
Harden grew up in western Canada and wore short sleeves in the chilly weather. But the Tigers jumped on him for two runs in the first inning.
Curtis Granderson walked on four pitches, three of which bounced in the dirt. Leyland then called for a hit-and-run and it worked perfectly as Craig Monroe hit a grounder to the right side which was vacated by second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez, who ran to cover second. Granderson easily raced to third on the hit and Placido Polanco followed with an RBI single to right-center.
Monroe, who advanced to third on Polanco's hit, scored on a fielder's choice grounder by Magglio Ordonez.
"I knew coming into the start and not having pitched in a couple of weeks, that getting through the first inning would be key for me," Harden said. "I made too many pitches and walked a few guys. I knew it was something I had to get through before I could settle down."
Harden also walked the bases loaded in the second inning, but got out of it by striking out Monroe.
Monroe, who had two hits and three RBI in the Tigers' 8-5 win at Oakland in Game Two, led off the fifth inning with a home run over the left field wall to increase the lead to 3-0. It was Monroe's third homer of the postseason.
"We understand what's at hand," Monroe said. "We're going to stay focused and hopefully we'll do something special for you guys tomorrow (Saturday)."
Just three years ago, the Tigers lost an AL record 119 games.
"We know where we are and how close we are," Granderson said. "But we're not going to relax now. We have to finish this off."
Oakland slugger Frank Thomas, who led the team with 39 homers and 114 RBI in the regular season, is 0-for-10 in the series after going 0-for-2 against Rogers.
"That wasn't a different Kenny Rogers out there tonight," Thomas said. "It was the same old Kenny. He was changing speeds all night and kept every hitter off balance. It wasn't the first time he's done this and it won't be the last."
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