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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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To Rogers' doubters, take that
TIGERS 3, A'S 0: The veteran Detroit pitcher, feeling hurt by comments from the beaten Yankees, shuts down Oakland.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 14, 2006
DETROIT - The impetus for Kenny Rogers' brilliant performance Friday in Detroit's 3-0 brink-of-a-pennant victory over Oakland apparently came from the aftermath of his previous equally stellar start.
His effort in that Oct. 6 game was spectacular, 72/3 emotionally charged shutout innings against the Yankees that ended his personal postseason failures and was a key point in the series. But amid all the accolades, Rogers was apparently hurt by how the beaten Yankees characterized his ALDS performance, and he spent the week working up the response he delivered against Oakland.
"It really made him mad the Yankees said he pitched the game of his life, insinuating that was the only way he could beat the Yankees," Tigers closer Todd Jones said. "So I guess he's pitched back-to-back starts that have been the games of his life."
Maybe so. The 41-year-old left-hander, who grew up in the Hillsborough County community of Dover and was discovered playing outfield at Plant City High, delivered another gem, holding the A's to two hits over 71/3 shutout innings.
Complimented by a modest offense - a two-run first built from a walk and two singles and later a Craig Monroe homer - and the usual dominating bullpen work on a frigid afternoon, the Tigers have a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series and are one win, which they could get as soon as today, from their first World Series berth since 1984.
As much as the Tigers are built on the team concept, Rogers stood out again as the star, pounding first-pitch strikes, using his sinker effectively and riding tremendous emotion. In two postseason starts, he has thrown 15 scoreless innings.
"I knew he was pretty good," Jones said, "but I've seen him the last two starts go to levels I didn't know he had in him."
Rogers tends to thrive on doubt and revels in proving people wrong, and he said he was "disappointed" with the Yankees' comments. "I don't like to minimize anyone's effort," he said.
There is no minimizing what impact Rogers has had on the Tigers, and they not only enjoy it, they gain from it. Player after player in their clubhouse said they get excited for Rogers and with him and play better because of it - more aggressive on defense, more relaxed on offense.
"It's a little inspirational when you see an old guy go out there and compete and perform with the intensity that he has had," Tigers pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said. "Especially in these two playoff games."
The feeling flowed across the field.
"I don't know if it would be disrespectful or something," Oakland's Milton Bradley said, "but I almost feel like going over there and giving him a high-five. He was that good."
The Tigers passed on starting Rogers in Game 2 in Oakland ostensibly to give him extra rest, but they wanted him to have the boost of pitching again in front of the Comerica Park fans, as chilled as they were with temperatures in the low 40s and wind chill in the 30s but still serenading him with chants of "KEN-NY, KEN-NY." In essence, it has become a love story: They love watching him pitch, and he loves to pitch in front of them, turning their energy into his. "I'm really trying to use that emotion and use that aggressiveness and feed off of it," Rogers said. "And it's making me a better pitcher."
The way he has thrown the past two weeks, it would be hard for anyone to disagree.