Kenny Rogers already appears to be in midseason form after missing three months following the removal of a blood clot in his throwing shoulder.
Rogers (2-0, 0.75 ERA), one of the linchpins of the rotation in Detroit’s run to the 2006 AL title, had offseason surgery to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder. The 42-year-old, though, has shown no signs of wear in winning his first two starts - conceding just one run and six hits in 12 innings while walking only one batter.
“I don’t go out there and expect to fail,” Rogers said following his win over Texas on Thursday. “It was a good start, but it’s only a start.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been conscious not to overwork his veteran pitcher, letting him throw only 75 pitches on June 22 in his first start and removing Rogers following an 84-pitch effort Thursday.
“But with 85 pitches and it being his second game back, I’m not going to get crazy,” said Leyland, who said Rogers lobbied to stay in the game. “He’s kind of freaky, really. To be out that long and pick both sides of the plate apart. That’s not easy to do.”
Rogers has won his last eight decisions when pitching after a Tigers loss, and will have the chance to extend that streak in this game. Detroit (47-34) lost 5-4 in 11 innings on Wednesday, squandering a bases-loaded opportunity in the 10th as both Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez - catching his 2,000th game - failed to drive home the winning run.
“I hit the ball hard and I missed the homer by three feet,” said Rodriguez, whose foul ball prior to his inning-ending groundout narrowly missed being a grand slam. “Then I hit the next one hard, but right back to the pitcher. That’s baseball.”
Rogers went 3-2 in six starts against the Indians last season and is 16-16 lifetime against them.
The Indians (51-32) have won six straight and extended their lead over the Tigers in the AL Central to three games Tuesday. Casey Blake hit a solo homer in the 11th after rookie Ben Francisco tied the game at 4 in the eighth with a home run - his third in 13 at-bats as a pinch-hitter.
“I’m having a blast,” Francisco said. “The whole team is in a good mood right now. We’re winning games. We’re just out here enjoying it.”
Jake Westbrook (1-3, 6.10) pitched well Friday in his second start after missing six weeks with a strained abdominal muscle, but had nothing to show for it. The right-hander limited Tampa Bay to one run in seven innings and struck out a season-high seven before the Indians pulled out a 2-1 win.
He went 1-2 last season against the Tigers, but was hit hard in all three outings. Westbrook was tagged for 17 runs and 28 hits in 19 1-3 innings, but earned a win in the most recent start on Aug. 26 despite being reached for five runs and 12 hits in seven innings.
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