Tigers Go Up 2-1 on Yankees With 6-0 Win

They're both on the brink.

On one side, there's the Detroit Tigers. With a win on Saturday they would pack up their bats and head to Oakland for the AL championship series, an unexpected step in an unexpected season.

On the other, the New York Yankees. A loss in Game 4 and baseball's $200 million super squad, with its 21st century Murderers' Row and All-Stars all over the diamond, would be done for the year, embarrassed by a team it figured to steamroll on its way to winning another World Series.

For one, October holds more promise. The other's days are numbered.

"Tomorrow is the whole season," said Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees' slumping third baseman. "Nothing else matters. We have to go out and win a game."

The Tigers, just a few seasons removed from 119 losses, have the same attitude.

"A lot of people may have had us like David versus Goliath or whatever," said Game 3 winner Kenny Rogers. "But I think we all felt like we had a chance."

On Friday night, Rogers gave the Tigers hope and the game of his postseason life, throwing 7 2-3 shutout innings to lead the Tigers to a 6-0 win over New York and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

The 41-year-old Rogers silenced the big Bronx bats, allowing just five hits and beating New York for the first time since 1993. It was his first postseason win in 10 games, and it was the type of performance he never had during two spotty seasons with the Yankees.

"I've never seen Kenny throw so well," said Rodriguez, mired in a postseason slump that could lead straight to the trading block. "I don't care what lineup was out there, they weren't scoring a lot of runs."

Rogers used every pitch in his stash to blank a revamped Yankees' lineup that went a mind-boggling 0-for-18 with runners on base.

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 Comerica Park's first playoff game.

"I tried to make adjustments and show them a different guy, because they'd shown they can wear out the other guy," Rogers said. "I was a little more intense than I've been in a long time.

"If I was going to look for a worst matchup for me, this was it, because they have done very well. I couldn't put more effort into the game than I did. I was emotional and animated out there. I wanted this game as much as any game I've ever wanted in my life."

Last weekend, the Tigers blew an AL Central title and home-field advantage in the first round. They were given little chance against the Yankees, but are now within a win of doing the unimaginable.

Jeremy Bonderman will start Game 4 on Saturday against New York's Jaret Wright. Game 5 would be Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Detroit, which left the Big Apple on Thursday with a split after rallying to win Game 2, scored three runs in the second 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.

He 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 ballgame," 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 dugout by Tigers fans who serenaded him with chants of "Ken-ny."

This Rogers wasn't the one who had been so inconsistent 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."

Casey had two RBIs and Curtis Granderson hit a solo homer as the Tigers delivered an unforgettable performance in their first home playoff game since 1987.

The Yankees' offense sputtered again, and this time it wasn't all Rodriguez's fault.

A-Rod is still AWOL. He came in 10-for-19 with five career homers against Rogers but went 0-for-3 and dropped 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.

"There's tension in this clubhouse," Rodriguez said. "We've worked too hard this year to go home like this."

Yankees manager Joe Torre shook up baseball's best lineup, using Bernie Williams as his DH, resting first baseman Gary Sheffield for Jason Giambi and moving Rodriguez from sixth back into the cleanup spot.

The shakeup didn't stir a thing as the Yankees scoreless streak reached 14 innings.

"We got a little overanxious at times," Torre said. "We're a better ballclub than that."

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 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.

"We have had 43,000 before, but this was totally different," Granderson said. "It seemed like there was 100,000 people out there. It got to the point where we could not hear anything. And that's exactly the way we wanted it to be."

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.