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10/11/06 1:00 AM ET

Chess Match: Faith in Robertson pays

Left-hander comes up with best stuff after tough start to fourth

OAKLAND -- The A's, who never trailed in the American League Division Series against Minnesota, never led in this one, as the Tigers took a five-run lead by the fourth inning and cruised to a 5-1 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday night at McAfee Coliseum.

The lopsided early lead took a lot of the managerial gamesmanship out of play, but there were a few notable game situations.

Nate skates
The situation: Nate Robertson walked Frank Thomas leading off the fourth, then gave up a double to Jay Payton. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Tigers manager Jim Leyland quickly had relievers Jamie Walker and Jason Grilli warming up.

The decision: Leyland stayed with Robertson.

The skinny: "I basically just told him, 'Don't worry about the two runners that are already on -- you've got to make your pitches, though, from here on out -- and don't worry if those two runs score. Don't let this thing open up trying to not let anybody score, and consequently you open up a huge inning and let three or four score. Just from this point on, just try to make good pitches to the hitters and forget about the runners. If those two runs score, we're still in command of the game at that point,'" Leyland said. "Fortunately, he struck out the side."

The outcome: Robertson struck out Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro in order to end the threat and preserve Detroit's 5-0 lead.

Oakland manager Ken Macha said: "The pitcher reached back, got a little extra and struck out the side. That's pretty frustrating."

Walk this way
The situation: With his club trailing by two in the fourth, Oakland starter Barry Zito gave up a leadoff home run to Ivan Rodriguez, then walked Craig Monroe. The base on balls was the third in the last six batters -- along with two hits -- for Zito, and for the free-swinging Tigers to draw three walks in swift fashion should have sent off alarm bells that this clearly wasn't Zito's night.

The decision: Macha stayed with Zito.

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The outcome: Three of the next five Tigers batters reached, including an RBI double by Brandon Inge and a run-scoring single by Placido Polanco. It's hard to fault Macha for sticking with his ace so early in the game, but Zito did not get out of the inning and was replaced by Chad Gaudin after the A's had fallen into a hole that they would never emerge from.

The skinny: "The ground ball hit to [Eric] Chavez, we didn't turn a double play and it wound up costing us two runs there," Macha said. "As far as him giving up the five runs, sure, they hit a couple homers off him and he gave up some hits, but the game could have been reasonable had we turned that double play."

First (base) crisis
The situation: Detroit first baseman Sean Casey left the game in the sixth inning with a strained left calf.

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The decision: Casey is the lone true first baseman on Detroit's playoff roster, so Leyland moved Carlos Guillen to first base and inserted Ramon Santiago at shortstop.

The outcome: Casey will definitely miss Game 2.

The skinny: "I'm sure everybody is aware you cannot replace somebody during this series, so it's not like you can activate [Chris] Shelton," Leyland said. "Those are the rules. We'll have to go with the combination of Santiago and [Neifi] Perez and [Omar] Infante and Guillen at first base, and we'll have to get through it the best we can. We don't really know the extent of it yet, but it's 100 percent that he will not play tomorrow. Friday is probably a long shot but a possibility, but with the reports of the weather in Detroit, I don't know if that will be feasible or not, but we'll just have to play it by ear."

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