by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

It was a good night for faces at the ballpark. You can start with Kenny Rogers. When he pitches, his jaw is as tight as a steel girder. Tuesday night, that jaw was also thick with whiskers and the whiskers were coated in silvery resolve. “The guys tell me the worse I look the better I pitch,” he would say of the unshaven look. “But the more I grow it, the more it shows the gray.”

Well, gray is a serious color, and Rogers has a serious face, somewhere between Huey Lewis and George Clooney when both are having their rights read to them by a cop. You don’t enjoy seeing that face if you’re the opposing team, and the White Sox don’t enjoy seeing Rogers at all, not this season, since he rarely allows them any runs and Tuesday night he didn’t allow them any.

Seven innings, nobody crossed his plate. And after every frame, Rogers left the mound like a zombie, his arms stiff by his side, his shoulders straight as coat hanger. Rogers may be the study hall monitor on a staff full of kids, but he is getting the job done in Detroit – and shooting down a reputation for second-half fades.

“I never bought that,” manager Jim Leyland said after the 4-0 win, which made Rogers 13-6 for the season. “I knew when we got Kenny Rogers he wasn’t going to be pitching in Texas in August where it’s 105 degrees out.

“Every pitcher, at a certain point in the year, is gonna get tired, whether it’s a 40-year-old or a 20-year-old. Heck, we held back Justin Verlander, and he’s 23.”

It is true, Rogers came into the All-Star Game with four straight wins, and – before Tuesday – he had won just one game since then. But wins and losses don’t always measure a pitcher. Look at his runs allowed. In his last three outings, Rogers has allowed a total of two earned runs. Two? In three games? What fade are we talking about?

“I have slow parts of my season every year. … But I know I’ve won games in September and August. I just want to start winning some games in October.”

And the grizzled face allowed a grin.

Guillen, ump go face to face

There was no grinning from the jowly face of Chicago’s Ozzie Guillen. Not Tuesday night. The fiery manager was thrown out in the top of the second inning, after yelling one too many times about the strike zone. It’s one thing to complain. It’s another to do it on the step of the dugout, and apparently, the home plate umpire, Dan Iassogna, reached his boiling point. He threw Guillen out. Of course, only in baseball does throwing somebody out mean they then come onto the field. In a flash, Guillen was up in Iassogna’s grill, close enough to floss his teeth.

Now those were some faces. They went at it for more than a minute, hollering over each other, flicking spit across the small space between their noses.

Anyhow, after some saucy exchanges, Guillen finally turned and left. But then, of course, he spun and screamed something like “What did you say?” and they went at it again.

Pudge exultant; Leyland stoic

“You can’t do bleep,” Guillen told reporters afterward. “They have all the power. More bleep you talk, the more money they take away from you. You better shut the bleep up. …

“The only thing I told him was to let them compete. …”

Actually, it’s the “can’t win” part that is probably truly bothering Ozzie. The White Sox have dropped six of their last eight.

There were other great faces Tuesday night. Maglio Ordonez squeezing his brow in concentration as he dove for a catch that killed a potential White Sox threat. Pudge Rodriguez raising a fist and yelling in celebration when Rogers struck out Jim Thome to end the sixth. Leyland as stoic as ever beneath his white mustache, saying “There’s a lot of baseball left.”

Of course there is. But already, the Tigers have assured themselves they’ll lose no ground to the White Sox in this series. In two nights, Detroit has two wins and Chicago has scored one run.

That’ll make for some interesting faces reading this newspaper. Most of them happy.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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