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Rogers and Tigers Dealt All the Right Cards

It was a cold, rainy night at Comerica Park in Detroit, but not one person at the ballpark cared about the weather. Game 2 of the World Series was a pivotal contest for both the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals: the former had to win to stay alive because a 0-2 deficit headed to St. Louis would be nearly impossible to come back from; the latter could spring way ahead in the Series and put it away at the New Busch Stadium with 2 more victories. At the center of Game 2 was a 41-year-old lefty pitcher who picked a terrific time to throw perhaps the best game of his career.

Kenny Rogers threw a masterpiece on Sunday night

They call him the Gambler, and pitching Kenny Rogers in the playoffs used to be a gamble. Rogers entered this postseason without a win in 8 playoff starts, and his career ERA in the playoffs was nearly 9.00. If he was in fact the Gambler, each time Rogers’ started in the playoffs he was dealt a hand of 7-high, and that kind of hand never wins. Kenny’s luck turned in 2006 however, and his sudden mastery of postseason pitching is a mystery like no other in baseball. In two outings this postseason entering today, Rogers had not allowed a run in 15 innings of spectacular work against the New York Yankees in the ALDS and the Oakland A’s in the ALCS, earning 2 wins — his first two in the playoffs — along the way.

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The Tigers needed Kenny Rogers to be dealt a winning hand in Game 2

Down 1-0 in the World Series and needing a win in the worst way, the Tigers sent Kenny Rogers to the mound, betting that he could improve his playoff record for this season to an unblemished 3-0. Kenny Rogers took the mound to a loud and enthusiastic ovation from the sellout crowd at Comerica Park; he was playing high stakes poker, and Tigers fans were hoping he’d be dealt a royal flush.

Out to put a dent in Rogers’ perfection was Albert Pujols and the Cardinals

Kenny Rogers started his 3rd postseason outing by sending David Eckstein and Scott Spiezio back to the dugout on a groundout and strikeout. He then walked Albert Pujols and allowed a single to Scott Rolen, getting himself into a little trouble. Rogers escaped the mini-jam in just 3 pitches, inducing a flyout from Juan Encarnacion to end the inning.

Craig Monroe got things started for the Tigers

Cardinals’ starter Jeff Weaver would not have the same luck that Kenny Rogers did on the frigid Sunday evening. After retiring Curtis Granderson on a flyout, Weaver surrendered the game’s first run on a towering blast by Craig Monroe. Traveling past the bullpen and into the left-centerfield seats, Monroe’s “no-doubt-about-‘er” put Detroit ahead 1-0. The Tigers weren’t done however; Placido Polanco grounded-out after Monroe’s homer, but Magglio Ordonez singled and Carlos Guillen drove him in with a double, giving the Tigers a 2-0 advantage. Ordonez’s run would turn out to be the game-winner.

Craig Monroe’s blast didn’t steal the spotlight from Kenny Rogers

While the 2-run opening frame was a hugely important factor in the Tigers’ Game 2 victory, the true winner was #37, who had millions of people around the world staring at him this evening. Kenny Rogers’ 2nd inning started with Jim Edmonds at the plate and the veteran southpaw retired the Redbirds’ centerfielder on strikes. That “K” started a streak of 9 consecutive Cardinals sent down by Rogers, which lasted through the 4th inning.

Jeff Weaver worked some of his own magic in the Bottom of the 4th

The Bottom of the 4th was the Tigers’ chance to blow Game 2 wide open. Detroit’s 7-8-9 hitters loaded the bases with nobody out, frustrating Jeff Weaver and putting a “mafia-like” look on Tony La Russa’s face. Weaver however would weave his way out of the jam without allowing a run, because of the over-anxiousness of Detroit’s 1-2-3 batters. The Tigers did not score a run in the 4th inning, an inexcusable failure for a World Series team fighting for a chance to even the Series. But Kenny Rogers would bail his offense out, with a scoreless 5th inning, surrendering only a leadoff walk to Jim Edmonds in that frame.

Sean Casey (Tigers) drove in an insurance run for Detroit

In the 5th inning, the Tigers jumped right back on the offensive. After Magglio Ordonez grounded-out, Carlos Guillen knocked his 2nd extra-base hit of the game, this time a 3-bagger to rightfield. Guillen was stranded at 3rd by Ivan Rodriguez, who struck out, but scored on an RBI single by Sean Casey, giving the Tigers and Kenny Rogers an insurance run and making the score 3-0.

Kenny Rogers made sure the Tigers 3-0 lead would hold up

The question surrounding Game 2 quickly shifted from “will the Tigers even the series?” to “how many more innings will Kenny Rogers pitch?”. Manager Jim Leyland had no reason to take him out of the game, as Rogers did not allow a run in the 6th and 7th innings, allowing just 1 baserunner in each of those frames. The 8th inning was equally kind to the Gambler, as Yadier Molina led it off for St. Louis with a single, but no Cardinals runner would advance past 1st in the inning. Aaron Miles then grounded into a fielders-choice, force-out, and the Cardinals had a runner on 1st with 1 away. Two pitches later, Kenny Rogers was pumping his fist and walking to the dugout after inducing a double-play grounder from David Eckstein.

Todd Jones relieved Rogers in the 9th

I used the word “relieved” in my caption for Todd Jones, only because it’s the technical term. In reality, Jones provided little relief, although the veteran closer retired Scott Spiezio and Albert Pujols very quickly. After retiring Pujols, Jones surrendered a single to Scott Rolen. Rolen took 2nd base on a defensive indifference, and Juan Encarnacion followed that up by reaching on a fielding error by Jones. The tying run came to the plate in Jim Edmonds, and Edmonds doubled on a flare down the leftfield line, scoring Rolen and moving Encarnacion to 3rd, putting the tying run into scoring position. Kenny Rogers looked like he was loading up to punch Jones should the closer surrender two more runs. Rogers was even more infuriated and the Comerica Park fans even more concerned when Jones plunked Preston Wilson, loading the bases with 2-away. Game 2 of the World Series had gone from a one-sided affair with Rogers as the star to a primetime TV drama named CSI: Comerica Park. All the concern was for nothing as Jones induced a groundout by Yadier Molina to end the game.

There is no question about who the star of this game was, and if you have any doubts about it, Kenny Rogers might need to settle a score with you. Game 1 starter Justin Verlander said “we couldn’t have done it without Kenny”. There’s no better way to put it. The Gambler was dealt yet another royal flush, and Kenny Rogers certainly didn’t fold his hand.

FINAL SCORE: Tigers 3 Cardinals 1

Pitchers of Record:

W: Kenny Rogers

L: Jeff Weaver

S: Todd Jones

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kenny Rogers

Game 3 is Tuesday night at the New Busch Stadium with Chris Carpenter taking the mound for the Cardinals and Nate Robertson countering for the Tigers. Carpenter will need to sharpen-up his stuff after a couple of shaky outings his last 2 times out, and it is now the Cardinals who are under pressure to produce a victory. The team that takes a 2-1 lead in the series could very well come out the victor in the end.

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Trivia Time!

The previous question was…

Q: Mets’ 3B coach Manny Acta is a candidate to manage an MLB team next season. Which country’s team did he manage during this year’s inaugural World Baseball Classic?

A: Manny Acta managed the Dominican Republic’s squad in the World Baseball Classic.

Today’s question is…

Kenny Rogers threw a perfect game on July 28, 1994 while pitching for the Texas Rangers. Who was the Rangers’ opponent in that game?

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