Friday, October 06, 2006
Game 3: Tigers 6 Yankees 0
They said Kenny Rogers couldn't handle the pressure of a big game. They said he didn't have the stuff to stop the Yankee line-up. The Yankees hitters came into the game batting a combined .391 versus Rogers for their careers. Rogers proved everyone wrong tonight by blanking the powerful Yankees, a team he hadn't beaten since 1994, for 7 2/3 innings. His brilliant performance propelled the Tigers to a 6-0 shutout and a 2-1 lead in the series.
The 41 year old Rogers was replaced by 21 year old Joel Zumaya who got the last out of the 8th. I was surprised to see him come into the game because, with a 6-0 lead, I figured they would save him for tomorrow. He only pitched to one batter so he should still be ready for tomorrow. Fernando Rodney started warming up in the bullpen initially in the 7th but Zumaya took over pretty quickly. I may be reading too much into it but it makes me wonder if they saw something in Rodney that they didn't like tonight. He did start warming up again in the 8th when Zumaya came in.
I admittedly was one of the people who thought Rogers might be too much of a finesse pitcher to contain the Yankees. I did predict that they would hit the aging and ailing Randy Johnson. I was wrong about Rogers but right about Johnson. The Big Unit gave up 3 runs on 4 hits in the 2nd and 2 more runs on 3 hits in the 6th. The attack was paced by Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez and Sean Casey who had 2 hits apiece.
Carlos Guillen is showing the country that he shouldn't have to take a back seat to Derek Jeter. He is now 5 for 10 with 2 walks in the series. Another one who is showing off his stuff is Curtis Granderson. Granderson capped the scoring with a solo home run in the 7th. He is now 6 for 12 with 2 homers in the series.
As if the game itself was not great enough, ESPN viewers were treated to a couple of innings of the legendary Ernie Harwell. Growing up in Massachusetts in the days before cable TV and the internet, Harwell was my primary connection to the Tigers from the age of about 8 into my 30s. Like so many other Tiger fans, I spent countless nights of my youth, listening to Ernie on my radio late a night when I should have been sleeping. The 88 year old Harwell still has the perfect broasdcasting voice and enthusiasm of a man half his age. It was great to hear his voice and his stories one more time tonight. It was especially great to hear Jason Giambi stand there like the house by the side of the road and watch strike three go by.
It was an emotional night for Rogers, for the team and for fans who saw a post-season game in Detroit for the first time since 1987. I'm looking forward to hearing stories from fans who actually attended the game. The last two days, the Tigers have played like they did in the first 4 months of the year - great pitching, smooth fielding and just enough hitting. Actually they are playing better because they are doing it against the Yankees now. They still need one more victory in this series. Game 4 will be at 4:00 tomorrow as Jeremy Bonderman faces Jaret Wright. Bonderman has been unpredictable the last couple of months but tonight I'm very confident.