Gambler outduels Unit; Tigers take 2-1 lead vs. Yanks

DETROIT (AP) -- Kenny Rogers stood alone near the mound and

soaked in the cheers. He had stared down his past and all that

pinstriped power, and now it was time to enjoy a night like no


The sarcastic "A-Rod" choruses had quieted. The taunts

directed at Jason Giambi were distant whispers, and the mighty New

York Yankees had been blanked by a pitcher who was once one of

their own.

Battling history

New York Yankees
Having won the first game against Detroit on Tuesday, New York will have to buck history to overcome its 2-1 series deficit. Here's the Yanks' ALDS record since 2000 when winning and losing the first game:
Winning Game 10-2
Losing Game 14-0

And as Tigers fans saluted him by singing "Ken-ny, Ken-ny",

Rogers touched his heart with both hands.

"I wanted this game as much as I ever wanted any in my life,"

he said.

In a ballpark normally locked up by October, the Tigers got 7

2/3 shutout innings from Rogers and outplayed New York in a 6-0

victory on Friday night, pushing Detroit within one win of shocking the Yankees

into an early winter.

The 41-year-old Rogers, one of the few Detroit pitchers who

doesn't fire 100 mph fastballs, used every pitch in his stash to

blank a revamped Yankees' lineup for his first win in 10 postseason


As if conjuring the spirit of former Tigers phenom Mark "The

Bird" Fidrych, Rogers spent much of the evening talking to himself

between pitches. It was unusual behavior on a night when a full

moon hung over the ballpark.

Elias Says

Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers recorded his first career postseason win Friday night at the ripe old age of 41 years, 330 days. Only two pitchers in major league history were older than Rogers when they earned their first career postseason win: Dolf Luque in Game 5 of the 1933 World Series (43 years, 64 days) and Dennis Eckersley in Game 4 of the 1996 NLCS (42 years, 10 days). But both of those pitchers won in relief.

• For more Elias Says, Click here.

"I was probably more emotional than I should have been,"

Rogers. "That is by far the greatest lineup I've ever faced. I

just wanted to win for everyone here."

Rogers' first win over the Yankees since 1993 came at the

perfect time for the Tigers, who were playing their first

postseason game in Comerica Park, the first playoff game in The

Motor City since 1987 at Tiger Stadium.

Last weekend, the Tigers, baseball's darlings during the regular

season, had a chance to wrap up their first division title in 19

years and secure home-field advantage in the first round of the AL


Instead, they flopped. Detroit got swept by Kansas City and in

the process the Tigers gift wrapped the AL Central title for

Minnesota and wound up as a wild card with a playoff appointment in

New York.

Well, whatever magic dust that carried the Tigers through the

regular season is blowing in the Michigan wind again. Detroit leads

the series 2-1 and needs just one win to stun the AL East


"We really haven't finished everything yet," first baseman

Sean Casey said. "We have a 2-1 lead, but that doesn't mean


Detroit, which left New York on Thursday with a split after

rallying to win Game 2, scored three runs in the second inning off

Randy Johnson and two more in the sixth. And, Rogers, whose career

highlights include a perfect game in 1994 for Texas and an

embarrassing run-in with a TV cameraman, made them stand up.

Rogers, who played for New York in 1996-97, confounded the

Yankees with fastballs, sinkers, changeups and curves. The

left-hander struck out eight -- his most since June 13 -- and walked


"For this one night, I think he got it all together, and he was

probably as determined as you'll ever see anybody pitch a

ball game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

After striking out Bobby Abreu for the second out in the eighth,

Rogers was lifted by Leyland and received a long, loud ovation on

his walk to the Tigers dugout.

This Rogers wasn't the one who had two spotty seasons in New

York, where he won a World Series ring in 1996. After that, he

pinballed around the majors with a stop in Oakland, with the New

York Mets, two stints in Texas and a stopover in Minnesota.

"I'm not afraid to fail," he said. "I know I'm 40-something

and don't have a lot of talent left anyway, but I do believe in


Joel Zumaya replaced Rogers and got one out, and Todd Jones

finished the five-hitter, triggering a wild celebration by the

43,440 fans.

Casey had two RBI and Curtis Granderson hit a solo homer as the

Tigers, who lost 119 games in 2003, moved within one win of taking

a best-of-5 series few thought they had a chance in.

Jeremy Bonderman will start Game 4 on Saturday against New

York's Jaret Wright.

The Yankees' offense sputtered again, and this time it wasn't

all the fault of Alex Rodriguez, who said: "There's tension in

this clubhouse."

A-Rod was still AWOL following an 0-for-3 performance that

dropped him to 1-for-11 in the series. New York's $25 million man

is batting just .116 (5-for-43) in his last 12 postseason games and

hasn't drive in a run in his past 11.

Citing Bernie Williams' stronger numbers -- a .353 average with

two homers -- against Rogers, Yankees manager Joe Torre shook up

baseball's bash brothers from the Bronx by using the 38-year-old as

his DH while resting first baseman Gary Sheffield.

Jason Giambi, New York's DH in the first two games at Yankee

Stadium, played first and Rodriguez, who was dropped to sixth in

the lineup for Games 1 and 2, was back in the cleanup spot.

The shakeup didn't stir a thing. The Yankees went 0-for-18 with

men on base.

Williams and Giambi 0-for-3 were 0-for-3 and Sheffield sat on

the bench with a blue-hooded sweat shirt pulled up over his head.

The Yankees, who haven't scored in 14 innings, went 0-for-8 with

runners in scoring position after going 1-for-8 in Game 2.

"That's not the Kenny Rogers I remember," Rodriguez said. "He

was phenomenal tonight. He was definitely on an emotional high,

which isn't how he usually is. It was amazing."

Johnson required an epidural shot in his back a week ago to ease

the pain from a herniated disc. On a chilly 50-degree night, the

Tigers were the ones needling him with timely hits and aggressive


The Big Unit allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings,

losing his eighth straight division series decision.

"I kept us in it for five innings," he said. "At least I felt

I did that."

From the moment beloved Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline threw

a strike with the ceremonial first pitch, Detroit fans were rocking

the way they used to in Octobers past at the corner of Michigan and

Trumbull, about one mile from the Tigers' new home.

Leyland was worried about his team's focus but the Tigers, who

have 18 players making their postseason debuts, were locked in. In

the second, they strung together three straight singles off Johnson

-- the last by Casey -- for a 1-0 lead.

New York nearly got out of the inning but Curtis Granderson beat

out a potential double play as Ivan Rodriguez scored.

That should have been it, but the Yankees blew a second shot at

getting Granderson, who was caught leaning by Johnson but slid into

second under Giambi's high throw.Game notes
It was the Tigers' first postseason win at home since Oct.

10, 1987, 7-6 over the Twins. ... Wright and Leyland last crossed

paths in the postseason 1997. The right-hander started for

Cleveland in Game 7 against Leyland's Florida Marlins, who won

their first title in extra innings. "He has my ring," Wright

said. ... Granderson has two homers in the series, matching the

most for a Detroit player since Chet Lemon in '87.