10/09/06 10:48 PM ET
Robertson set to start Game 1
Left-hander to get ball against A's in ALCS opener
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
He went to Comerica Park on Saturday preparing for a Sunday night assignment at Yankee Stadium in Game 5, but hoped the Tigers' American League Division Series against the Yankees wouldn't come to that. Thanks to Jeremy Bonderman, Robertson gets a little extra rest and another Game 1 start on the opposite coast, this time in the American League Championship Series against Oakland.
It was the second time in a week that Robertson has had to look at starting against either the A's or Yankees. This time, the Tigers won.
"These last-minute schedules are certainly something most of us haven't experienced before," Robertson said, "because it's playoff baseball and things change in one day. I'm sitting there preparing mentally for the Yankees and then, bam, you're on the plane the next day going to California."
The Tigers will use the exact same rotation order that they used for their ALDS against the Yankees, starting with Robertson for Game 1 on Tuesday night. Justin Verlander will start Game 2, followed by Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman for Games 3 and 4 in Detroit.
"I have total confidence in Nate Robertson," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's one of our guys. That's what you do when you get to these things. You go with your guys. I'll say the same thing I said in New York: You don't all of a sudden get to the Championship Series and pull Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson out of your pocket. It doesn't work that way."
Robertson was a last-minute announcement as the Game 1 starter against the Yankees after the Tigers had to use Rogers in relief during the final two innings of their regular-season finale against the Royals. Robertson nearly salvaged a way to keep the Tigers in the game, despite a five-run Yankees third inning, but a two-run single from Bobby Abreu left him charged with seven runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"He's going to feed off of the last couple games that we played," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. "We have a team emotion right now that is really good. No matter what, I know he's going off of the momentum we've had the last couple days."
Some Tigers, such as shortstop Carlos Guillen, credited that game with giving the team confidence that it could stick with the heavily favored Yanks. For Robertson, the fact that it was close gave him a little more frustration.
"There weren't a whole lot of breaks," he said. "Everything that they hit seemed to scrape over a wall, go when a guy's covering second base and gets by shortstop, seeing-eye ground balls, the one that I don't field, all the little things that could've gone another direction."
If he's hoping for better fortunes against the A's, he's going to have to contend with another powerful offense. He split decisions in a pair of starts against them in July, going seven innings each time. Jay Payton's three-run homer sent Robertson to a 5-3 defeat at McAfee Coliseum, but he came back three weeks later at home to cruise to an 8-4 victory after entering the third with a 7-0 lead.
Though Robertson doesn't have the track record of success against Oakland that his rotation mates Rogers and Bonderman can boast, he has held his own. He's 2-2 with a 5.46 ERA in four starts against the A's, averaging seven innings an outing. Both losses, however, came out West, where he has allowed 12 runs over 13 innings.
"They have a couple guys that can drive the ball out of the ballpark, as well as we do," Robertson said. "They've got some table-setters, and playing the game right, they do that as well as anybody else, doing all the little things.
"It is a similar matchup. The big thing is they have a nice little lefty-righty combination, too -- [Mark] Kotsay and [Eric] Chavez and a couple switch-hitters that can flip around to both sides, so it's a balanced lineup as well."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.