In my three years of writing for Bless You Boys, I've been pretty hard on Nate Robertson. But with a combined record of 16-24 and a 5.55 ERA in 2007 and 2008, along with losing his spot in the rotation during Spring Training this year, Robertson made it pretty easy to get down on him.
However, I come today to praise Nate Robertson. (Out in Scottsdale, AZ, Mike McClary is loving this.)
The Detroit Tigers needed a win today. Their season wasn't on the line, necessarily (though some people reading this will disagree, I imagine). They would still have left Minneapolis with a one-game lead in the AL Central had they lost. But a three-game lead would've made things considerably more comfortable. And Robertson did what he could to make sure the Tigers got that.
Since getting those "fatty, marble-like nodules" taken out of his elbow, Robertson has been a different pitcher. In his first two starts, he'd allowed one run in 10 innings. And if the groin that he injured (or pelvis he inflamed, depending on your terminology of choice) in his last start was healed, he seemed likely to give his team a respectable effort against a familiar opponent.
Holding the Twins to two runs over five innings probably qualifies as respectable, don't you think?
But pitching hadn't been an issue for the Tigers in this series. Their hitting had been the problem. Particularly, hitting with runners in scoring position. Placido Polanco took care of that today. In the fifth inning, behind 2-1, the Tigers had runners on second and third with one out. Time for a weak pop-up or double-play groundball, right? No, Polanco opted for smacking the ball into right field instead. Both runners scored, and the Tigers had the lead.
Detroit padded that lead in the late innings, thanks to a solo homer from Ryan Raburn and sacrifice fly from Polanco (again, driving the ball with runners on base). That gave the bullpen some extra breathing room, though they may not have needed it with the way they pitched. Zach Miner, Bobby Seay, and Fernando Rodney combined to allow two hits over four innings. And perhaps most importantly, they only allowed three fly balls, reducing the chances for a repeat of Saturday afternoon's flub.
And with that, the Tigers say goodbye to the Metrodome (unless events conspire against Detroit and there's a one-game playoff for the AL Central in Minnesota). They also lose only one game off their first-place lead, managing to avoid the worst-case scenarios that Tigers fans feared coming into this weekend.
How about Gerald Laird batting 2-for-4? He doesn't just throw out baserunners. Though he did throw out Nick Punto once, and would've gotten him again had the Tigers not been guarding against a hit-and-run in the seventh.
Comment of the Day:
Now, lighten up, Francis.
Oh, and here's a runner-up I'm sure everyone can agree with.