After long delay, Rogers nets series win
Tigers take first set, lefty ends five-game slide vs. rival Royals
KANSAS CITY -- Detroit fans wondered whether he'd lost it. They had to, really, after Kenny Rogers' stat line on May 21 read 4-4, with 6.66 ERA.
With that type of production coming a season after a major injury, all kinds of doubts surrounded the 43-year-old pitcher.
Not much is uncertain about Rogers anymore. His performance in Tuesday's 7-1 win further drove that point home. The lefty is now 4-2 since that day in May, and his ERA has shrunk by more than two runs.
"I feel fine," Rogers said. "I feel better now than I felt a month ago. I had a lot of stuff going on then."
Tuesday was as routine as it could get for Rogers, same with the rest of the Tigers. The offense got enough hits, and Rogers broke a personal five-game losing streak to the Royals. Detroit controlled everything but the weather, with a two-hour and 20-minute rain delay that stretched things out a little longer than anyone would've liked on the eve of a day game.
"It's tough," manager Jim Leyland said, "but that's just the way it is. It's what we do for a living."
Aches and pains helped spark the bad start to the season, Rogers said. Some days, his groin hurt, other times it was the ankle or hip. Like most pitchers, his arm got sore, too. Rogers started relaxing, and stopped doing as much running as he used to do, hoping to heal his body.
It's safe to say his plan worked.
"I can tell that there's a better mobility in my legs," Rogers said. "It's nice just to feel good."
Kansas City could only muster a first-inning scare against Rogers. The Royals got one run in the first before Rogers honed in. He didn't allow a hit over the next two innings, and allowed only two more before exiting in the sixth.
The departure was probably at least an inning premature, considering Rogers threw just 80 pitches, but there was no way Rogers was coming back after that long a delay -- even though he told Leyland he wanted to return. He finished with six innings, giving up the one run and striking out four.
Take away Mark Grudzielanek's three hits, and Rogers would've had a one-hitter. Grudzielanek is 15-for-23 (.652) lifetime against the veteran lefty, and Rogers said that he'd have to learn how to throw a knuckleball next time if he wants to get him out.
"I'm not joking," Rogers said. "I'm throwing him one because he's hit everything else."
Detroit quickly regained a one-run lead after the Royals tied it up at 1 in the first. The Tigers didn't so much hit well against Royals starter Kyle Davies, rather, they wore him out.
Davies gave up just two runs on five hits, walking one. The problem was that he lasted only four innings, because he threw 96 pitches in that span.
With Davies out so soon, the Royals had to turn to their bullpen early again, something that Leyland acknowledged had been happening to Kansas City recently. Like Monday, the Tigers took advantage of the depleted 'pen.
Detroit loaded the bases against Joel Peralta in the fifth inning with nobody out. A Miguel Cabrera single, Matt Joyce walk and Gary Sheffield sacrifice fly accounted for the three runs scored in the inning.
The Tigers notched two ninth-inning runs off Royals relief after the rain delay. Detroit has whipped Kansas City's bullpen for 17 runs the last two games.
Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya finished the game for Detroit after the showers. Their drama-free innings, and the seven runs by the offense, were plenty enough with Rogers feeling it.
He didn't feel it at all against Kansas City the last time he faced the team. Rogers gave up seven runs and 11 hits over four innings in a loss on May 15. That might have been his worst outing of the season, and it came about two weeks before he started turning his year around.
In the same ballpark Tuesday, Rogers did about the opposite of what he did in May. Then again, he's been doing just that his last 11 starts. It's times like these where instead of wondering if Rogers can make it through this season, fans start thinking about how many more years he can go.
As for Rogers, cliché as it sounds, he says he's just taking it one start at a time.
"I'm tired of thinking one way and it going differently," Rogers said. "Things will work themselves out. I've lied to myself and my wife too many times. I'm not saying anything."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.