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Tigers offense comes up shy in loss

Tigers drop opener to Cards

DETROIT -- If the Cardinals had made Mickey Lolich labor 40 years ago like they made Kenny Rogers work Tuesday, the Tigers might not have been celebrating a 1968 World Series championship reunion.

For that matter, if the Cardinals made Rogers labor two years ago like he did in this 8-4 Tigers loss, St. Louis might've had a World Series sweep.

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On the night Detroit remembered its 1968 Series champions, the Cards scored as many runs against Rogers as they did on Tigers pitchers in the final three games of that '68 Fall Classic, all of which were Tigers victories. But then, that was the year of the pitcher, after all. More relevant to the Tigers' present-day hopes is the fact that the Cardinals scored more earned runs against Rogers on Tuesday than he had allowed in his previous five outings combined.

The surprising part about it was how quickly the outing turned against Rogers, and how slowly his outing seemed to go after that. The dividing line between the two seemed to lie with Brian Barton's drive out to left field for a game-tying solo homer with two outs in the fifth.

"We never got in a flow at all," manager Jim Leyland said. "It was a terrible game flow for us."

Rogers had allowed a run on four hits over his first 4 2/3 innings, retiring seven out of eight batters until Barton stepped to the plate. He needed just 52 pitches to get through those first four innings, and he hadn't gone to a full count or faced more than one three-ball count. Once Barton drove a full-count changeup into the bullpen in left field, it became more than a tied game. It also became a long, drawn-out struggle for Rogers.

Following Barton's homer, the Cardinals loaded the bases on Rogers with an Aaron Miles double and back-to-back walks. Rogers left them loaded by striking out Rick Ankiel, but it came on his 37th pitch of the inning.

"I don't feel like I was tired," Rogers said. "I think in the fifth, yes, it extended in a lot of ways with Aaron getting the bloop double and [then the] two walks. I kind of pitched around Ludwick once I got to 2-0. It wasn't what I wanted to do, but I knew Rick was on deck, and let me try [my] hand at lefty against lefty. It did take a lot more pitches than I would've hoped for, but I can't dictate how long it is."

Seven pitches later from Cardinals starter Braden Looper, the Tigers were retired in order and back in the field. Three more hits from there chased Rogers with one out in the sixth before Skip Schumaker greeted reliever Freddy Dolsi with a two-run single to put the Cardinals in command for the rest of the game.

Leyland doesn't believe much in momentum, but he does believe the tempo of a game can have an effect. This tempo wasn't working in their favor.

"We just never got in the flow," Leyland said. "The innings were too long for us out in the field, I thought. For whatever reason, Kenny was a little more deliberate, taking a little bit more time tonight than normal, I thought. He just didn't seem to be comfortable."

The longer the fifth inning went, the more time Rogers took between those pitches, sometimes walking behind the mound to try to gather his thoughts. Some of it was Rogers' effort to get Cardinals hitters uncomfortable. The rest was him searching for his own comfort zone.

"I can take the air out of the ball with the best of them," Rogers said. "I'll slow things down just to where I try to make sure I gather myself and know what I'm trying to do. I was still feeling for making quality pitches most of the game, but when they get aggressive and they're doing well, it's usually when a guy gets up and just keeps rapid-firing pitches.

"I'm trying to slow things down as much as I can, and hopefully throw them off a little bit. Some of it's by design. Some of it was because I was feeling for what I wanted to do."

His downfall from there came quickly. Yadier Molina doubled on the first pitch of the sixth inning. Nick Stavinoha advanced him on the next pitch with a groundout, then Adam Kennedy and Brendan Ryan hit back-to-back ground-ball singles to finish Rogers' night.

"They did a good job of laying the bat on the ball," Leyland said. "They're a scrappy team."

Rogers (5-5) had allowed just four runs over 36 innings in his previous five starts. He gave up five runs over 5 1/3 innings in this one.

Solo home runs from Ivan Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera comprised Detroit's only scoring damage against Looper (9-5), until Gary Sheffield celebrated his return from the disabled list by lining a two-run homer in the seventh inning for his fourth home run of the season.

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

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