Rogers struggles in loss to Rays

Rogers struggles in loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- "You can't make it to the postseason, if you don't pitch well."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland made the statement on Friday, but it would have served just as well headlining Detroit's 9-3 loss to the Rays on Saturday night, as the club floundered in front of a sellout crowd at Tropicana Field.

When Kenny Rogers made his Major League debut, Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine was 6 years old and the Tampa Bay Rays weren't even in existence.

But it was Rogers who struggled mightily and the young, upstart Rays who made him pay -- driving the southpaw to a season-high, 109-pitch effort in just 3 1/3 innings.

"He was missing by more than normal, I thought, for Kenny Rogers," Leyland said of the 20-year veteran. "Kenny throws that many pitches in 3 1/3 innings, he's not right obviously. So he just had a tough night."

Although Rogers fanned a season-high eight Rays in the short span, he also issued an uncharacteristic four walks, two of which crossed the plate. In nine of his previous 10 starts, Rogers held opponents to two or fewer walks, and hadn't issued four free passes since June 2 in a loss in Oakland.

"Those [walks] without a doubt are my failure -- my issue with not being able to do what I'm supposed to do," Rogers said. "But I had good stuff. I wouldn't have gotten eight strikeouts if I didn't. I can't put extra guys on base and I can't use that many pitches."

The southpaw tallied 65 pitches through the game's first two frames, as Rogers struggled to shut the door in the second inning, giving way to four, two-out runs for the Rays.

But the veteran wasn't alone in his command struggles, as reliever Freddy Dolsi issued three more base on balls to give the Rays some early offense.

But the Tigers weren't returned the favor. Sonnanstine was touched for seven hits, but Detroit could only plate a pair of runs. Even with its early pitching woes, the club's bats had a chance to help resuscitate the game, loading the bases against reliever Al Reyes in the seventh inning.

The red-hot Miguel Cabrera laced a long one-out double, but it bounced perfectly off the wall to right fielder Gabe Gross, tying up Carlos Guillen, who was caught between third and home trying to score the second run on the play.

"It was a tough play," said Guillen.

The infielder was initially waved around third and although he said third-base coach Gene Lamont tried to put the brakes on, Guillen was already caught halfway down the baseline.

"It was just one of those freak plays," Leyland said, adding that he wasn't overly upset. "When you aren't going good, things like that happen."

And they become magnified in the wake of Detroit's third straight loss, and a misstep back to the .500 marker. The Tigers have followed a resounding series sweep of the Royals on July 21-23 with a 3-6 record, as the team has struggled to put together a long stretch of wins.

"We just haven't done the job -- you got to go out and win ballgames and we just haven't done that," Leyland said. "We've hung around and gone a little over and way under [.500] and we just haven't been able to take the next step to get something really rolling."

The effort is there as the Tigers matched the Rays' 11 hits. But the lucky breaks and bounces that winning teams often enjoy are not.

"Yes, it's disappointing, but it's not for lack of effort out there," Rogers said of his high pitch total. "I would have loved to get them out easier [with a lack of stuff], but that's the way it is."

The Tigers enter Sunday's finale, 6 1/2 games back of the White Sox in the American League Central race, still looking for a way to get all their cylinders rolling.

"Everybody's trying, the whole season we've been trying," Guillen said. "It's hard to find a way to be consistent."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.