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10/23/06 1:41 AM ET

Chess Match: Awakening the Gambler

Investigation of Rogers' hand may have inspired him

DETROIT -- The night after, the Tigers' willingness to pitch to Albert Pujols with a base open in the third inning of Game 1 was still topical. Way beyond second-guessing, the subject reached fifth- and sixth-guessing before Game 2 -- and new fodder for debate -- got under way.

The Tigers' opening move would've drawn raves from Bobby Fischer. They put up a two-spot in the bottom of the first, and the Cardinals could never castle their way back into the game.

Foreign substance
The situation:
While working a scoreless first inning, which he escaped by stranding two runners, Kenny Rogers is spotted by TV cameras to be sporting a strange smudge on the inside of his left thumb.

The decision: After St. Louis manager Tony La Russa huddles briefly between innings with umpire supervisor Steve Palermo, Rogers returns to the mound for the second inning without the mysterious substance.

The outcome: Rogers retired the next nine men and 18 of the next 20, not allowing another hit until Yadier Molina led off the eighth with a single. Did suspicion further steel Rogers, who had already been a pitcher on a postseason mission?

The skinny: "It was a big clump of dirt and I wiped it off. I didn't know it was there, and they told me and I took it off, and it wasn't a big deal." -- Rogers

"There was a noticeable dirt mark of some sort on his left hand, and after the first inning, [plate umpire] Alfonso Marquez just asked Kenny to remove that dirt so there wouldn't be any question as far as any controversy." -- Palermo

"I wouldn't discuss that about someone who pitched like that. I wouldn't want to take anything away from anybody." -- La Russa

Inge's over-dive
The situation:
After Albert Pujols draws a two-out walk in the top of the first, Scott Rolen hits a grounder of average speed slightly to the left of Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge.

The decision: Inge takes a couple of sidesteps, then dives for the ball.

The outcome: Inge's leap extends his glove hand too far; he tries to bring his hand back to the ball, which winds up kicking off the heel of his glove, as he rolls over the ball, which goes for an infield single. It is the last hit allowed by Rogers until Molina's single.

The skinny: "There was nothing I could do about that. I went for the ball, just a reaction, and ended up smothering it." -- Inge, who couldn't even recall the play until goaded

Miles to go
The situation:
Cardinals second baseman Ronnie Belliard, riding a 6-for-29 slump, has a lifetime 2-for-22 mark against Detroit starter Rogers. Meanwhile, La Russa has been looking for an excuse to get some at-bats for Aaron Miles, 3-for-5 off the bench during the playoffs.

The decision: Miles makes his first start of the postseason, inserted in the No. 9 hole against Rogers.

The outcome: Miles goes hitless in three at-bats, two of them coming with two of the three men the Cardinals get on base after the first. With a man on first, he ends the fifth with a line drive back to the box. He follows Molina's leadoff eighth-inning single by grounding into a force.

The skinny: "I've been looking to get Aaron in the game. He's got a chance to be very important to us in this series, and nothing [is] better than [being given] some at-bats. And then, the struggles that Ronnie's had against Rogers, that's hard to ignore." -- La Russa

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.