DETROIT -- Kenny Rogers pitched eight scoreless innings Sunday, running his shutout streak this postseason to 23 innings while helping the Tigers even the World Series at a game apiece.
And yet, all anyone can talk about is Rogers' dirty left hand.
Early in the Tigers' 3-1 win over the Cardinals, there appeared to be a dispute about
something on Rogers' pitching hand. Television cameras caught a brownish substance, possibly dirt, on the palm of Rogers' left hand in the first inning, and showed it several times. By the second inning the substance was gone, and the
pitcher's hand looked clean.
"It was a big clump of dirt," Rogers said after the game. "I didn't know it was there. They told me about, but it was no big deal."
When asked how he could have a big clump of dirt on his pitching hand without realizing it was there, Rogers replied, "It was dirt and rosin put together. That's what happens when you rub it up. I just went and wiped if off. I didn't think it was an issue. After the first inning, it was fine. I felt I was pretty comfortable after that."
"Somebody said they thought they saw pine tar on him," Cardinals second baseman Aaron Miles said after the game. "That's about it. Whether he got rid of it, or he never had it in the first place, we don't know. His stuff was good all game."
"Pine tar, I'm told, can give the ball more rotation. It's useless for the fastball, but with the breaking pitches it can help with the movement and spin."
-- former Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliffe
"I've heard [pine tar] is used for the grip," former Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliffe told ESPN The Magazine's Amy K. Nelson. "But that's what the rosin bag is supposed to be used for. When it's hot out and you're sweating, the rosin bag is there to help give you more grip, the same effect, and give it a tacky substance. But tonight the rosin bag isn't going to be much help with the cold weather.
"The pine tar, I'm told, can give the ball more rotation. It's useless for the fastball, but with the breaking pitches it can help with the movement and spin."
Umpires huddled before the start of the second inning, then
talked to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on the field. La Russa
didn't appear happy about the explanation he got.
In the middle of the inning, three umps chatted with Tigers
manager Jim Leyland near the third-base line.
"Tony said a couple of hitters complained the ball was doing
some funny things," Leyland said during an in-game TV interview
from the dugout. "Evidently, Tony brought it to their attention,
but obviously it wasn't anything."
Umpire supervisor Steve Palermo told a TV reporter that whatever
Rogers had on his hand needed to be cleaned off. The supervisor
said it was nothing suspicious, and both managers were alerted.
"There was no formal request made about [Rogers] being inspected," Palermo said after the game. "There was a noticeable dirt mark on his pitching hand, and after the first inning, Alfonso Marquez, the home-plate umpire, asked him to remove the dirt so there wouldn't be any question about any controversy. And I think if you see the following innings, he pitched fine without the dirt."
"Dirt is not a foreign substance. That's the playing surface. There was absolutely no detection that he put anything on the ball by any of the umpires. That rule regards if he deliberately put something on the ball to doctor the ball. There was an observation, and [Marquez] saw there was dirt, and he asked him to take it off."
"It was observed as dirt. [The umpires] have a pretty good idea what dirt is and what a foreign substance is."
After the substance was noticed, ESPN reviewed tapes of Rogers' pitching performances earlier in the postseason. The tapes revealed that, in starts against both the Yankees and Athletics, a similar-looking brown substance was spotted on Rogers' hand.
"The cold makes the ball so hard," Rogers said after the game. "There's no grip."
After the game, Rogers denied that his meeting with the umpires had anything to do with the substance on his hand.
When La Russa gave his in-game interview, he said the issue was
not something he wanted to discuss.
A former major league pitcher offered his take on what a foreign substance can do to alter a pitcher's performance.
"When your hands get cold, you can't put spin on the ball, because the ball slips out of your hands," the pitcher said. "It also changes your release point. It changes the release point because the ball wants to come out of your hands sooner so it makes the ball go high, with less spin. So it's higher in the strike zone, or not even a strike, and with less movement. But once you use something that's a little stickier, like pine tar or chewing tobacco and gum, or hair gel, anything that makes your hand look sticky or feel sticky, it brings your release point back to normal. It also puts the same spin on the ball because you have a better grip.
"The problem is there's different substances that don't have a color to them and also don't wear off after awhile. Because when you throw more than 10-15 pitches in an inning, certain things start to wear away, and all of a sudden you're throwing your most important pitches with your least amount of stuff."
ESPN The Magazine's Amy K. Nelson contributed to this story. Information from The Associated Press was also used in this report.