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Gambler outduels Unit; Tigers take 2-1 lead vs. Yanks

DETROIT (AP) -- Kenny Rogers stood alone near the mound and
soaked in the cheers. He had stared down his past and all that
pinstriped power, and now it was time to enjoy a night like no
other.

The sarcastic "A-Rod" choruses had quieted. The taunts
directed at Jason Giambi were distant whispers, and the mighty New
York Yankees had been blanked by a pitcher who was once one of
their own.

And as Tigers fans saluted him by singing "Ken-ny, Ken-ny",
Rogers touched his heart with both hands.

"I wanted this game as much as I ever wanted any in my life,"
he said.

In a ballpark normally locked up by October, the Tigers got 7
2/3 shutout innings from Rogers and outplayed New York in a 6-0
victory on Friday night, pushing Detroit within one win of shocking the Yankees
into an early winter.

The 41-year-old Rogers, one of the few Detroit pitchers who
doesn't fire 100 mph fastballs, used every pitch in his stash to
blank a revamped Yankees' lineup for his first win in 10 postseason
games.

As if conjuring the spirit of former Tigers phenom Mark "The
Bird" Fidrych, Rogers spent much of the evening talking to himself
between pitches. It was unusual behavior on a night when a full
moon hung over the ballpark.

"I was probably more emotional than I should have been,"
Rogers. "That is by far the greatest lineup I've ever faced. I
just wanted to win for everyone here."

Rogers' first win over the Yankees since 1993 came at the
perfect time for the Tigers, who were playing their first
postseason game in Comerica Park, the first playoff game in The
Motor City since 1987 at Tiger Stadium.

Last weekend, the Tigers, baseball's darlings during the regular
season, had a chance to wrap up their first division title in 19
years and secure home-field advantage in the first round of the AL
playoffs.

Instead, they flopped. Detroit got swept by Kansas City and in
the process the Tigers gift wrapped the AL Central title for
Minnesota and wound up as a wild card with a playoff appointment in
New York.

Well, whatever magic dust that carried the Tigers through the
regular season is blowing in the Michigan wind again. Detroit leads
the series 2-1 and needs just one win to stun the AL East
champions.

"We really haven't finished everything yet," first baseman
Sean Casey said. "We have a 2-1 lead, but that doesn't mean
anything."

Detroit, which left New York on Thursday with a split after
rallying to win Game 2, scored three runs in the second inning off
Randy Johnson and two more in the sixth. And, Rogers, whose career
highlights include a perfect game in 1994 for Texas and an
embarrassing run-in with a TV cameraman, made them stand up.

Rogers, who played for New York in 1996-97, confounded the
Yankees with fastballs, sinkers, changeups and curves. The
left-hander struck out eight -- his most since June 13 -- and walked
two.

"For this one night, I think he got it all together, and he was
probably as determined as you'll ever see anybody pitch a
ball game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

After striking out Bobby Abreu for the second out in the eighth,
Rogers was lifted by Leyland and received a long, loud ovation on
his walk to the Tigers dugout.

This Rogers wasn't the one who had two spotty seasons in New
York, where he won a World Series ring in 1996. After that, he
pinballed around the majors with a stop in Oakland, with the New
York Mets, two stints in Texas and a stopover in Minnesota.

"I'm not afraid to fail," he said. "I know I'm 40-something
and don't have a lot of talent left anyway, but I do believe in
myself."

Joel Zumaya replaced Rogers and got one out, and Todd Jones
finished the five-hitter, triggering a wild celebration by the
43,440 fans.

Casey had two RBI and Curtis Granderson hit a solo homer as the
Tigers, who lost 119 games in 2003, moved within one win of taking
a best-of-5 series few thought they had a chance in.

Jeremy Bonderman will start Game 4 on Saturday against New
York's Jaret Wright.

The Yankees' offense sputtered again, and this time it wasn't
all the fault of Alex Rodriguez, who said: "There's tension in
this clubhouse."

A-Rod was still AWOL following an 0-for-3 performance that
dropped him to 1-for-11 in the series. New York's $25 million man
is batting just .116 (5-for-43) in his last 12 postseason games and
hasn't drive in a run in his past 11.

Citing Bernie Williams' stronger numbers -- a .353 average with
two homers -- against Rogers, Yankees manager Joe Torre shook up
baseball's bash brothers from the Bronx by using the 38-year-old as
his DH while resting first baseman Gary Sheffield.

Jason Giambi, New York's DH in the first two games at Yankee
Stadium, played first and Rodriguez, who was dropped to sixth in
the lineup for Games 1 and 2, was back in the cleanup spot.

The shakeup didn't stir a thing. The Yankees went 0-for-18 with
men on base.

Williams and Giambi 0-for-3 were 0-for-3 and Sheffield sat on
the bench with a blue-hooded sweat shirt pulled up over his head.
The Yankees, who haven't scored in 14 innings, went 0-for-8 with
runners in scoring position after going 1-for-8 in Game 2.

"That's not the Kenny Rogers I remember," Rodriguez said. "He
was phenomenal tonight. He was definitely on an emotional high,
which isn't how he usually is. It was amazing."

Johnson required an epidural shot in his back a week ago to ease
the pain from a herniated disc. On a chilly 50-degree night, the
Tigers were the ones needling him with timely hits and aggressive
baserunning.

The Big Unit allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings,
losing his eighth straight division series decision.

"I kept us in it for five innings," he said. "At least I felt
I did that."

From the moment beloved Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline threw
a strike with the ceremonial first pitch, Detroit fans were rocking
the way they used to in Octobers past at the corner of Michigan and
Trumbull, about one mile from the Tigers' new home.

Leyland was worried about his team's focus but the Tigers, who
have 18 players making their postseason debuts, were locked in. In
the second, they strung together three straight singles off Johnson
-- the last by Casey -- for a 1-0 lead.

New York nearly got out of the inning but Curtis Granderson beat
out a potential double play as Ivan Rodriguez scored.

That should have been it, but the Yankees blew a second shot at
getting Granderson, who was caught leaning by Johnson but slid into
second under Giambi's high throw.

Game notes
It was the Tigers' first postseason win at home since Oct.
10, 1987, 7-6 over the Twins. ... Wright and Leyland last crossed
paths in the postseason 1997. The right-hander started for
Cleveland in Game 7 against Leyland's Florida Marlins, who won
their first title in extra innings. "He has my ring," Wright
said. ... Granderson has two homers in the series, matching the
most for a Detroit player since Chet Lemon in '87.