Rogers pitches Tigers past Yankees
Veteran sees success vs. former team; Granderson stays hot
NEW YORK -- Kenny Rogers slipped. Unlike past visits to Yankee Stadium, he didn't fall.
He insists he doesn't dread pitching here any more than he would visiting another ballpark in the league, despite some bad numbers. It's a tougher ballpark, but it's another ballpark. Tuesday's 6-4 Tigers victory wasn't a Big Apple redemption for Rogers, and it wasn't the solution to all his early-season woes. Still, it was a step, and it came after a slip.
"They've had me for a while," Rogers said of the Yankees. "Hopefully, it'll be my turn for a little while, whatever time's left."
His focus was more on what he was doing than his opponent -- a team he hadn't faced in the regular season since 2004 -- or his surroundings. Still, in any sense, his awkward delivery on a two-strike pitch to Shelley Duncan wasn't a good sign.
He said he might have been trying to be quicker to the plate with a runner on base, and that might have helped him catch a spike in the dirt as he delivered towards the plate. As he tailed off towards first base, he let go of the ball in hopes of getting it to catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
"I caught my spike, and once you start doing that, I know I have to throw the pitch," Rogers said. "I think I got it there in the air."
He got it there somehow without putting it to the backstop or leaving it over the plate for Duncan to hit. Still, it was fitting. Though it was a freak play, he was still out of his mechanics. By the time he found them, he had walked the bases loaded with a three-run lead. The last two walks came after putting Duncan and Morgan Ensberg in 0-2 counts.
One pitch away from walking in a run, with All-Star Robinson Cano at the plate -- following his two-run homer off Rogers his last time up -- Rogers escaped with a fly out to left. When Rogers came out for the fourth, it was as if none of that trouble had happened.
By the time Rogers was done, he had retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced and lasted six innings with two runs allowed, handing a four-run lead to Detroit's bullpen. He threw 26 pitches over his final three innings after needing 75 to get through his first three.
With Tigers special assistant and Rogers' longtime pitching confidant Dick Egan in attendance, Rogers (2-3) got the results he wanted, even if he still didn't feel quite right.
"He actually settled down and threw pretty good," manager Jim Leyland said.
It was good enough for Rogers' first win at Yankee Stadium since he was a Yankee. He had given up 24 earned runs on 40 hits over 22 innings in four starts in the Bronx since leaving New York following the 1997 season.
Though Rogers had one of his most memorable games against the Yankees in the 2006 AL Division Series, he hadn't beaten them in the regular season since the Yankees traded him away, either. The last time he got a win over the Bronx Bombers was Aug. 17, 1993, when he was 28 years old.
Still, Rogers said, there was no added incentive to win this one. He had enough incentive the way his season has been going.
"I was trying to right my own ship, pitch the way I'm capable of," Rogers said. "It didn't matter who I was facing. I was trying to get on a little bit of a roll, pitch better and do what I'm supposed to do. It's nice to win here, without a doubt, because I know they're a very good team."
He didn't know the age difference, either, but he outpitched a rookie half his age. While the 43-year-old Rogers escaped early trouble to thrive, 21-year-old Phil Hughes (0-4) had all sorts of trouble with Curtis Granderson and the top third of the Tigers lineup.
Granderson walked leading off the game and scored when Magglio Ordonez singled in two runs. He led off the third by belting a Hughes pitch off the corner of the seating in right-center field for his third home run in six games since returning to the lineup from a fractured bone in his right hand.
The homer not only broke a 2-2 tie, it set up a rally that built some cushion for Rogers. Placido Polanco followed Granderson's blast with a well-placed double down the left-field line, then Gary Sheffield marked his final return to his old home park by diving after a Hughes curveball and depositing it beyond the left-field fence for his second homer on the year.
Granderson's two-out double his next time up extended the fourth inning for Polanco, whose single just out of the reach of Derek Jeter sent Granderson home again.
Granderson went 2-for-3 with two walks on the night. He has reached base safely 15 times in 30 plate appearances since his return. The difference in this game was that he reached base with impact.
"We know he sets the tone for us," Leyland said. "He's an very interesting player because he's a leadoff guy that can hit a triple, he can hit a single and steal a base, he can hit a double and score on a sac fly, or he can hit a ball out of the ballpark. He's an exciting player."
With his help, the Tigers offense did its job by picking up the starting pitcher. Rogers, however, feels like he still has more to do. He made a step, but he'll have plenty of talking to do with Egan over the next couple days over what he saw in the outing.
"I feel good," Rogers said. "I feel like I'm strong enough to do what I want to do, and my velocity's fine. It's just mechanically, I'm a little off what's normally good for whatever reason, and I'm going to try my best to clean it up. Because I want to do deep into games. I don't want to have that many pitches early in the game and have two really unbelievable innings just to get through six innings. I want to do more."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.