Rogers rewriting his legacy
Game 2 starter altered reputation with back-to-back gems
DETROIT -- One by one, Kenny Rogers has torn up the pages of his past postseason performances in about as emphatic a fashion as one can imagine.
Going into the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, Rogers had been 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in ALDS play, but the left-hander blanked the Yankees on five hits in 7 2/3 innings.
Entering the American League Championship Series against the Oakland A's, he had been 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA in ALCS competition, but Rogers held the A's scoreless on two hits for 7 1/3 innings.
Rogers enters Game 2 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday as the hottest pitcher in baseball and one who will try to make his previous Fall Classic performance even more of a distant memory when the Detroit ace faces former Tiger Jeff Weaver and the Cardinals at Comerica Park.
Rogers, who gave up five earned runs on five hits in two innings for the Yankees against Atlanta in the 1996 World Series, has been a different pitcher this postseason. He is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and has allowed just seven hits and four walks in 15 innings. Opponents are hitting .140 (7-for-50) against the veteran left-hander during this remarkable postseason run.
Rogers admittedly has been more aggressive in his approach this time and with Detroit down 1-0 in the series, the Tigers are hoping for another similar effort from Rogers.
"I think for the most part it wasn't a game plan going into that first start, but it was because of the opponent," Rogers said. "If [the Yankees] wouldn't have had that type of success in the past with me, I may not have tried to make an adjustment. But in my whole career that's what I've done. If I failed at something, I've tried to change it in whatever ways I can that I feel would be more beneficial. Once you get in the flow of the game, you never really know what type of stuff you're going to have or the ability to make certain pitches."
The Yankees were 5-for-27 against Rogers in the ALDS, a .185 batting average. The A's were 2-for-23 against Rogers in the ALCS, a .087 clip.
"The adrenaline level was there, and I just -- for whatever reasons -- I used it, instead of trying to suppress it and control it, I just used it to help me and I think I benefit from it, without a doubt," Rogers said. "Sometimes overthrowing for me isn't beneficial, so I take a big chance, I guess, trying to pitch that way, mentally, but physically it's much more demanding. It's just something I felt like I was capable of doing and I needed to do. I didn't try to do it against Oakland. I didn't have the same fastball or nobody's ever described my stuff as ferocious in the last 10 years, but I tried to be more of a pitcher, just because of the team I was facing."
His teammates have noticed more emotion in Rogers since the postseason began.
"It's big," Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson said. "You get to see an older guy explode and get excited like a little kid. To still have that energy, still want the ball pitch after pitch and batter after batter in those outings, it was great to be behind him and be a part of it."
Rogers has faced the Cardinals twice in his career without a decision. He has allowed nine earned runs on 14 hits in 8 1/3 innings, a 9.72 ERA. But he did not face them this year when the two teams met in a three-game series in June.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland decided to start Rogers in Game 2 so he would be able to pitch twice at home, as a possible Game 6 would be played Comerica Park.
"I enjoy pitching here, without a doubt; the park is beneficial to any pitcher," Rogers said. "I was telling [Leyland] before, I don't think he looked at my World Series numbers. I'm batting 1.000 in the World Series. I was disappointed in that respect, but I think he saw that everybody was hitting 1.000 off me, too.
"Like I said, I'll start whenever he asks me to, it doesn't matter, whatever situation skip feels is the best for all of us. I think he's trying to put us in the best case scenario for us to go out and be successful. Once you know that, as a player, the skipper is going to try to do the best he can in that respect, it's just less of a burden on you, I guess, then you can focus on what you're capable of doing, what you need to do. I trust him as much as any manager, probably more than any manager I've ever played for."
Rogers, who turns 42 next month, is enjoying this October run as only one who has waited so long for postseason success can.
"Failure is part of this game, you can't escape it," Rogers said. "If you try, it's going to find you, more than your share sometimes. And I've had mine. Going through that, without a doubt, makes all of this more rewarding in a lot of ways, for one of the main points just to be able to say you got through it, you got through the hard part and you're still here, you're still competitive and still able to be successful at this point."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.