Rogers' gem completes sweep of Twins

Rogers' gem completes sweep of Twins

DETROIT -- Even after a 6-0 win Sunday and a 33-1 margin for the series, Jim Leyland didn't want to call this a dominant performance from his pitching staff.

To Leyland, dominant is a term used for guys who overpower hitters. Kenny Rogers, in that sense, is not dominant.

"We're not a dominant type of pitching staff at all," Leyland said. "I think the best part is, if we tried to be dominating pitchers, we wouldn't be very good. We just have to pitch within the stuff that we have. When we do that, we have a chance to be good pitchers."

So far, they're well beyond that, especially Rogers. His performance Sunday helped clinch the Tigers' fifth shutout, two more than they've had in any other April in team history, and seal Detroit's best opening month since their World Series championship season of 1984. It also extended Detroit's stretch of solid starting pitching to 12 games, during which its starters are 8-3 with a 2.08 ERA.

"I think it just shows us what we're capable of doing," Rogers said. "But the last thing I'll do is make it bigger than it really is. It's one month. Yes, we've played very well in a lot of ways. We've had some times when we didn't play well. We're loving it, but next month's coming up."

Torii Hunter ended an 0-for-17 slump Sunday with a second-inning single to put two runners on with no outs. Rogers retired the next 18 batters he faced, only three of which knocked the ball out of the infield.

Rogers had 90 pitches through eight innings and could've finished off a complete-game two-hitter, but yielded the ninth so that Todd Jones could get in his first inning of work since Tuesday at Anaheim. Between effective pitching, opportunistic hitting and sometimes spectacular defense, the Tigers beat the Twins so decisively they hadn't needed their closer to finish it off.

"That was vintage pitching and defense," Leyland said Sunday.

The Tigers hadn't held a team to just one run in a three-game series since sweeping the Twins on June 5-7, 1981, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Even in that series, they had to pull out a 2-0 game and scored 10 runs total in the sweep. They had more runs than that in one game this weekend and nearly as many in another. The closest of the three was a six-run game.

The defensive part Sunday, moreover, came during the one scoring threat the Twins had. Rogers recovered from Hunter's hit to strike out Justin Morneau on three pitches for the first out. Rondell White followed by slapping a sharp ground ball through Rogers' legs.

Rogers, the four-time Gold Glove winner, was angry he didn't catch the ball. By tipping it, however, he made sure second baseman Placido Polanco did. Polanco dove to the ground to stop the ball behind second base, then flipped the ball over his shoulder toward second base, hoping Carlos Guillen would be there. Guillen got there in time to snag it for the forceout.

On the very next pitch, Juan Castro hit a hard drive to deep right field. Magglio Ordonez ran it down quickly enough that he didn't have to dive to make the catch.

Minnesota starter Kyle Lohse (1-3), who had been a 7-3 lifetime pitcher against Detroit, kept pace with Rogers until the fifth, when Marcus Thames drove the first pitch he saw into the visitors' bullpen beyond left field for a two-run homer, scoring Craig Monroe.

Detroit broke open the game and knocked out Lohse with four runs in the sixth. After Guillen's one-out single and a hit-by-pitch to Chris Shelton, right fielder Lew Ford robbed Monroe of a two-run hit with a leaping grab at the right-field fence for the second out.

Lohse hit Thames with his next pitch to load the bases and extend the inning for Vance Wilson, who cleared the bases with a double to right-center. Polanco drove him in with a single two batters later.

That took the last bit of hope out of the Twins.

"I've been on the other side of that, too, where you've gotten the snot kicked out of you twice," Wilson said. "You come out, you're hoping something good happens and then all of a sudden they tack on a couple runs, especially in a game that's moving that fast.

"It was the fifth inning before you could blink, and you kind of knew whichever team struck first, that was probably which way it was going to go. I'm sure they're frustrated and you could tell they were probably swinging at some pitches they don't normally swing at."

Rogers, of course, let them take those swings. The middle of Minnesota's order -- Ford, Joe Mauer and Hunter -- grounded out to short in order in the seventh. After Morneau ended Rogers' string with a bloop single leading off the eighth, Rogers ended the inning to back-to-back grounders to short, the latter of which he tried to dive and catch.

"It was [scoreless or] 2-0 most of the game, so the four-spot we put up in the seventh was huge," Rogers said. "That makes a big difference for me and any other pitcher to go out and not worry about one mistake."

It wasn't completely mistake-free ball, but it was close. It was the kind of series Leyland doesn't expect to see against Minnesota ever again, let alone next week when they visit the Metrodome. It was the kind of month Leyland hopes his team doesn't get too excited about, even if it's their best April since the '84 team went 18-2.

It wasn't dominant this month, by definition, but it was very effective.

"We're doing very well right now," Rogers said, "but there's going to be some lulls in this. But I think we're all finding out we're very good pitchers, and with this kind of team we've got, our infield defense is tremendous. If we can be consistent and just keep our team in the game, we have a very good chance to win a lot of them."

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.