Last night's ALCS game 1 against the Athletics was the game that we as Tigers fans were supposed to be really worried about. Nate Robertson, who many perceived as being the Tigers "4th starter" was going up against the Oakland "ace" Barry Zito in a matchup of leftys. Nate was coming off a loss at the hands of the New York Yankees and Zito was fresh off of a dominating performance over Minnesota in the ALDS.
It turns out that our worries were not warranted, as the Tigers started off the ALCS the right way, winning 5-1 Tuesday night and quickly grabbing a hold of the series momentum. While this was a very important win for the Tigers, it seems that this will go down as a game in which the A's couldn't capitalize on their opportunities and ultimately shot themselves in the foot.
While Tigers starter Nate Robertson pitched a very good game against the Athletics, much of the emphasis may be on the way in which the Tigers lineup chased Barry Zito out of the game. The Tigers, a team that is known for having a lineup that includes several free-swingers, used patience at the plate to earn walks (one to Polanco being questionable, I know) and force Barry Zito to throw many pitches (92 in 3.2 innings). In the end Zito gave up a total of 5 ER on 7 H, equaling an early exit for the left hander and making way for a bullpen that shut the Tigers lineup down for the remainder of the evening.
While Zito was struggling, Nate Robertson was working into trouble and getting out of it repeatedly. The A's earned a baserunner in every inning Robertson pitch, only to come up empty time after time. In what could turn out to be a key point in this series, Robertson started out the 4th inning walking Frank Thomas and giving up a double to Milton Bradley. After a short meeting with manager Jim Leyland, Robertson struck out the next 3 batters, leaving the A's with no runs and in a pretty desperate situation.
Overall the A's left 9 on base and grounded into 4 double plays. It was said last night that eventually if you get runners on they will score, something that the Athletics will be hoping holds true for the rest of the series. They will have to avoid losing out on these situations against a pitching staff which was pretty darn good this season and is looking as if it has returned to mid-season form. Also, the A's suffered through a couple of serious fielding goofs, giving the Tigers extra chances for runs. Giving the other team extra run opportunities while no capitalizing on your own will equal a loss more often than not.
A Couple of Quick Notes:
- Casey was injured with what looked like a calf strain of some sort. He'll be out tonight for sure. Neifi will start at SS, while Carlos Guillen will assume 1st base duties in Casey's place. I can't really see a logical reason why you start Neifi over Infante at this point, but whatever.
- As noted on last night's telecast, Placido Polanco is very good against the A's. In 17 games he against Oakland he is batting .493 with a 1.163 OPS.
- I was a little surprised to see Zumaya out there last night...we were up by 5 and I would like to see him get as much rest as possible in the playoffs series. However, I think that Leyland is a creature of habit and likes to stick to what got them here, which is Zumaya in the 8th and Jones in the 9th.