Kenny Rogers Roasters, the wood-fired chicken restaurant, was founded in the early '90s. The baseball player with the same name began his career right around that point. And while I thought the restaurant was out of business, several baseball analysts figured the same for the pitcher.
Turns out we were both wrong.
Nathan's Famous, Inc. still runs one Kenny Rogers Roasters location in California. And Kenny Rogers threw 7 2/3 innings of shutout baseball against the New York Yankees in the Detroit Tigers 6-0 playoff win.
It's the wood that makes it good, ya know.
Rogers' domination of the heralded Yankees' lineup gave his Tigers a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five series. He allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out eight. One month before his 42nd birthday, the journeyman pitcher cast aside the cynical ghosts that haunted his performance of postseasons past. Prior to Friday night Rogers was 0-3 in nine combined playoff appearances with the Yankees and Mets. His ERA in those games was as appealing as a rotten McNugget – 8.85.
By the 7th inning the Detroit Tigers had a 5-0 lead. The crowd, unanimously on their feet, began chanting "Kenny! Kenny! Kenny!" as he faced the final batter in that inning – Robby Cano, who grounded out.
Being the only man I know who picked the Tigers in this series, even I didn't see this great a performance coming. As the Tigers built a 3-0 lead in the second inning, I stayed in an aura of level-headed optimism, hoping they'd win a close game. Perhaps by the score of 5-3. But never did I expect or even hope for a barrage of hits at the plate, a series of brilliant pitches from the mound, and a bit of sparkling defense to cement a win like this.
So while the team of innocent boys finally became men in Game 1, they performed like they were John freakin' Holmes and the Yankees were a naughty nurse.
But hold on, Michigan. Don't celebrate quite yet. (Or riot, ever.)
Unless Detroit likes their odds in a deciding Game 5 in the Bronx, the Tigers must finish off the series Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. (A game which I will be attending. Just had to sneak that in there.) Detroit will use full advantage of their deep pitching rotation by finally introducing Jeremy Bonderman to the playoffs, while New York's last hope is Jaret Wright. The 23-year-old Bonderman set career highs this year in win-loss record (14-8), ERA (4.08), and strikeouts (202). Wright's season was just okay (11-7, 4.49).
In a pressure-laden game like this, at least the Yankees' have a pitcher used to the big game. Wright started Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for the Cleveland Indians as a 21-year old, allowing just one run in 6 1/3 innings. But Wright's cumulative postseason stats aren't as impressive as that one game, as his 3-5 record and 7.24 ERA may warrant George Steinbrenner to begin making personnel changes to his ball club in the coming weeks.
However, Rogers' previous playoff numbers were also horrible, but then again nobody named a restaurant after Jaret Wright.