Whatever Nate Robertson took over the All-Star break seems to have worked wonders. Maybe the guy just needed some more rest to refresh that tired arm, because that was just about his best start of the season.
Nate straightened out most everything he'd been struggling with tonight. His pitches had movement, and perhaps most importantly, he was able to locate that fastball over the right edge of the plate. Left-handers were frozen outside, while right-handers were tied up inside. That was no clearer than in the sixth inning, where Nate pitched out of a jam by punching out Joe Mauer and getting Michael Cuddyer to swing and miss.
This is probably an irrelevant observation, but Nate just looked looser and more relaxed on the mound. Previously, he seemed all bunched up and tense in the neck and shoulders, and didn't throw with much confidence. But tonight, he was loosey-goosey and pitching with authority. He knew he was going to get the Minnesota hitters out, instead of just hoping. Maybe the dude just got some serious massage over the All-Star break. Or was it all about the haircut?
One Team Blinked In the Sixth
Matt Garza was outstanding for the Twins, as well. He matched Robertson almost pitch for pitch, and his curveball seemed to be getting sharper in the fifth and sixth innings.
In a close game like that, neither team can afford to make a mistake, but Minnesota finally flinched in the sixth when Jason Bartlett booted a Brandon Inge ground ball. It was just a sliver of an opening, but that's all the Tigers needed to push a run through. Inge advanced to second on a wild pitch, and two batters later, Magglio Ordonez smacked a single to left to drive in the run. (Up until that point, Garza had pitched 13 1/3 scoreless innings since being called up from the minors.)
Robertson made sure the run stood up in the bottom half of the inning by shutting down the Twins' scoring threat, and that was pretty much the ballgame. Zero runs on three hits over seven innings. Throw in five strikeouts, and that's quite a line score. If that's what the Tigers can expect from their fifth starter in the second half of the season, they should be just fine.
Water Covers 3/4 of the Planet, Curtis Granderson Covers the Rest
One last observation: Curtis Granderson was all over the outfield in the first two innings. In the first inning, Luis Castillo drove a ball to right-center that looked like a sure triple, but Magglio Ordonez ran it down in the gap. (No way he would've made that play last year.) But had he not been able to flag it down, Granderson was there to make the catch as well.
And in the second, Michael Cuddyer hit a ball to left field that dropped into Marcus Thames' glove. But if he hadn't been there, Granderson had run all the way over to put himself in position for the catch. Dude was everywhere. Maybe being on the same field as Torii Hunter inspired him to cover the entire outfield.