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Rogers Dominant as Tigers Take 3-0 Lead

Three games into the ALCS and it’s quite evident that the Oakland Athletics are overmatched by the Detroit Tigers. Not only do the Tigers have a 3-0 lead in the series, but Detroit is beating Oakland at it’s own game — defense and pitching. Kenny Rogers entered the 2006 postseason winless in 9 playoff starts, allowing nearly a run per inning in each of those outings. You couldn’t tell that by his two starts this postseason — Rogers is 2-0 and has yet to allow a run.

Game 3 took place on a freezing afternoon at Comerica Park

When the A’s and Tigers took the field for the third game of the 2006 ALCS, the weather conditions were uncomfortable, if not disgusting for playing baseball. No, it wasn’t raining or snowing, there wasn’t a tornado ripping through Detroit, and a hurricane didn’t suddenly form in the Great Lakes. It was however a frigid 40 degrees made worse by a 25-30 mile-per-hour gust. One player described it as “the coldest thing I’ve ever felt. Coffee was a hot commodity in the dugout; you couldn’t get enough of it to warm yourself up. I even considered putting heat packs in my socks and pants pockets. It was brutal out there. ” Brutal or not, the only weather adversity that delays a baseball game is precipitation — there was none of it so the game was played.

Kenny Rogers was spectacular in picking up his 2nd win of this postseason

The freezing weather certainly had no negative impact on Tigers’ starter Kenny Rogers. Rogers kept Oakland scoreless for 7.1 spectacular innings in which he allowed just 2 hits and 2 walks, hit one batter, and struck-out 6. If Rogers was ever in a difficult situation — which wasn’t often — he escaped it by inducing a double play, which his infield defense turned twice (one was induced by reliever Fernando Rodney). Rogers did not allow and A’s baserunner to reach 3rd base and left in the 8th inning having thrown 97 pitches for 63 strikes. It was a masterful performance by the Gambler to propel his Tigers to a commanding series lead.

The frigid condition seemed to take their toll on Rich Harden

The A’s countered Rogers with righty flamethrower Rich Harden, who was making just his 3rd major league start since returning from a serious injury that cost him most of the regular season. Harden quickly allowed 2 runs to Detroit in the first inning, before settling-in somewhat, and battling through 5.2 innings during which he clearly didn’t have his best stuff. Harden also seemed to lose velocity on his fastball as the game wore on and he was removed in the 6th inning having allowed 3 runs on 5 hits and 5 walks while striking-out 4. What killed the A’s righthander in this start was his inability to throw strikes, as Harden finished with a dismal pitches-to-strikes ratio of 105-to-56. The Tigers took full advantage of Harden’s lack of control and tagged him with the loss.

Craig Monroe (left) led the Tigers at the plate

While he had no involvement in the first-inning scoring, the Tigers’ offensive player of the game was Craig Monroe. Monroe hit a 5th inning solo homerun off Rich Harden to extend the Tigers lead to 3-0. It wasn’t the game-winning run, but the homerun provided important insurance which allowed the Tigers pitchers to relax and trust their stuff. Monroe also singled and walked in the game and scored two runs, finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI. The outfielder improved his ALCS batting average to a terrific .400, bested only by Placido Polanco, among Detroit’s regular starters.

There’s not a whole lot to say for Jason Kendall and the A’s bats

Oakland’s offense was once again stifled by the Tigers’ pitchers. Only four Athletics reached base in the game (one was on base twice), on hits by Jason Kendall and Marco Scutaro, two walks drawn by Nick Swisher, and Frank Thomas’ HBP. None of the four advanced past second base. The A’s have two regulars (Nick Swisher and Frank Thomas) without a hit in this series — interestingly enough, those are the A’s top-2 power threats — and 1 player who has just one base-knock. A team isn’t going to score any runs without production at the plate and the A’s are learning that lesson the hard way.

Credit the Tigers’ bullpen for keeping the A’s off the scoreboard in the late innings again, as Fernando Rodney pitched 2/3 of an inning and Todd Jones picked-up the save with a scoreless 9th.

FINAL SCORE: Tigers 3 Athletics 0

Pitchers of Record:

W: Kenny Rogers

L: Rich Harden

S: Todd Jones

Player of the Game: Kenny Rogers

The Tigers now lead the series 3 games to none, with the A’s on the brink of elimination. Oakland must now win 4 straight or go home, with the former only possible with a miraculous offensive turn-around or plenty of luck. The Athletics will send Danny Haren to the mound to face Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman. Haren is likely the A’s best bet in an elimination game, and I think the A’s will avoid the sweep.

________________________________________________________________

Trivia Time!

Yesterday’s question was…

In high school, Tom Glavine played baseball and another sport. He was drafted by the Braves in the MLB draft and by another team in the draft for his second sport. What was Glavine’s other sport?

For an extra challenge: Which team drafted him?

The answer…

Tom Glavine also excelled at ice hockey while in high school. He chose baseball however, despite being drafted by the LA Kings in the NHL Amateur Draft.

Today’s question is…

Tomorrow’s Detroit starter, Jeremy Bonderman, was featured in the bestselling book Moneyball as an example of what kind of front office mistake?

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