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Rogers is on the mark
Questions arise about a spot on his hand, but the veteran ties the Series.
By Marc Topkin
Published October 23, 2006
Tigers starter Kenny Rogers gets pumped after striking out Scott Rolen to end the sixth inning.
DETROIT - What Kenny Rogers did on the mound for the Tigers on Sunday night was spectacular, throwing eight shutout innings to lead the Tigers to 3-1 World Series-evening victory.
But as impressive as it was as Rogers extended his scoreless streak this postseason to a stunning 23 innings, there was also some controversy - and some raised eyebrows, if not suspicisions - about a curious dark spot on his pitching hand.
Whatever it was - Rogers first said it was "a big clump of dirt," then later said it was residue from rubbing the baseballs, "dirt and resin and all that stuff put together" - it was gone by the second inning of his eight innings, so it couldn't have been too big of an issue.
But that didn't stop it from being a primary topic of conversation.
"I guess that we're all talking about the smudge on his hand," Tigers reliever Todd Jones said. "He threw seven scoreless innings after that. So if there are any conspiracy theorists out there, they wouldn't have much of a conspiracy theory left."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa talked to the umpires about it during the game but would not talk about it after the game. "It's not important," he said. "When a guy pitches like that, as a team we don't take things away from anybody."
Rogers, the Plant City High product, pitched in short sleeves on the frigid night and pitched extremely well, allowing only two hits, an infield single in the first and a clean single in the eighth. The Tigers survived an adventurous ninth by Jones, who loaded the bases with two outs, to square the Series 1-1, with Game 3 on Tuesday in St. Louis. After on-and-off rain throughout the day, the game started with an official temperature of 44 degrees but feels-like estimates in the 30s.
As Rogers worked the first inning, Fox cameras zoomed in on a brownish spot on the palm of his left hand near the base of his thumb. When Rogers came out for the second, it was not there, apparently the result of orders to remove what it was.
There were multiple conversations between both managers, coaches and the umpires - including one session where three umpires talked to Tigers manager Jim Leyland - which added to the confusion and suspicions but didn't lead to any action.
Some Cardinals watching the game on the clubhouse TV got word to La Russa. Home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez had Rogers return to the mound with cleansed hands.
During an ingame interview with Fox, Leyland said La Russa complained to the umpires because his hitters said the ball was doing funny things. But Leyland said he didn't know anything about it and "obviously it must not have been anything."
Umpire supervisor Steve Palermo said the umpires noticed the dirt and asked Rogers to remove it and that La Russa did not complain.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the first off Jeff Weaver, starting with a 421-foot home run by Craig Monroe, his fifth homer of this postseason, matching Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg's career record for a Tiger. Monroe is the first player to homer in his first two Series games since Barry Bonds in 2002.
Rogers came into the game with a 15-inning postseason scoreless streak, having beaten the Yankees in the division series and the A's in the championship series.
Rogers, at 41 years, 11 months and 12 days, was the third oldest pitcher in history - and the oldest left-hander - to start a Series game. Only Jack Quinn (46 years, 3 months, 7 days) of the 1929 Philadelphia A's and Roger Clemens (43, 2, 18) of the 2005 Astros were older. Only two pitchers over 40 had won a Series game: Dolf Loque, who was 43 when he won the clinching game of the 1933 Series for the Giants in relief; and John Franco, who was 40 when he won Game 3 of the 2000 Series for the Mets.
The Cardinals got about what they could have expected out of Weaver, the former Tiger who salvaged his season, and perhaps his career, when the frustrated Angels shipped him to the Cardinals in mid-season. Weaver - who was 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in three playoff starts - worked five innings, allowing three runs on nine hits.
The Tigers, who looked in Saturday's 7-2 opening game loss very much like a team that had been off for a week, appeared more like themselves Sunday.
They jumped to an early lead, starting with the pair of first-inning runs, though they still had some problems, such as getting nothing after loading the bases to start the fourth. They expanded the lead to 3-0 when Carlos Guillen tripled in the fifth and Sean Casey knocked him in with a two-out single.