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Tigers Inge Past A’s in Game 1

The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics both had plenty of momentum entering their American League Championship Series showdown. The A’s were coming off an impressive sweep of the Minnesota Twins in their ALDS. The Tigers were streaking, having won three straight to oust the New York Yankees in their ALDS. When two teams with tons of momentum clash, the result is often something special — and in many cases, unexpected.

The Tigers trusted southpaw Nate Robertson with the task of  helping them win Game 1

The pitching matchup for the ALCS opener was Nate Robertson for Detroit and Barry Zito for Oakland. Robertson’s outing in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees was not pretty, while Zito pitched a gem to beat the Twins in the A’s opener. Looking only at their playoff results and regular season statistics, one would be convinced that Zito and the A’s had the edge on the mound. Had one taken that view, the result of Game 1 at the McAfee Coliseum might have surprised them.

Barry Zito seemed to lose his stuff in the 3rd inning

Zito and Robertson both enjoyed good beginnings to their starts, with the southpaws posting goose-eggs on the scoreboard for the first two innings. Things would change dramatically in the top of the 3rd, when the Tigers began attacking at the plate.

Brandon Inge was unstoppable on Tuesday night

The Tigers scored 2 runs in the 3rd inning against Zito, with third-baseman Brandon Inge jumpstarting their first offensive rally of the ALCS. Inge hit a 2-out solo Homerun in the 3rd, and the Tigers would go on to score another run in that frame to lead 2-0. The A’s could not counter against Robertson, so the score held up entering the 4th.

Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) widened the gap in the 4th

The Tigers’ fourth inning was the fatal blow MoTown dealt Oakland in this game. With the difference at 2 runs, the Tigers added another on a leadoff blast by Ivan Rodriguez, and would go on to score two more times in the 4th. The 5-0 gap would prove to be unbridgeable for the A’s, who were stymied by Nate Robertson.

Robertson exited the game after 5 innings of solid work, allowing no runs and 9 baserunners (3 walks and 6 hits — 1 for extra bases), while sending 4 A’s hitters down on strikes. Zito left after just 3.2 innings marred by ineffective breaking pitches, which doomed him to the tune of 5 runs on 7 hits (2 homeruns) and 3 walks. Though Zito was expected to win this game, it was Robertson who came out victorious from the Battle of the Southpaws.

The Tigers bullpen did its job, with Fernando Rodney leading the way

One stronghold of this Tigers team that has propelled it all season long is the bullpen, and the relief corps was crucial to Detroit’s Game 1 win. It didn’t seem like much (the Tigers ‘pen just needed to hold the A’s to 4 or fewer runs in 4 innings), but the efforts of Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya, and Todd Jones were as important as anything to this victory. Rodney pitched 2 scoreless frames; Zumaya allowed a rare run but held the lead in the 8th; and Todd Jones closed the door with a scoreless ninth.

The A’s relievers were also very effective, but their efforts were futile, because of the great pitching the Tigers brought to the table in Game 1. Still, the Oakland bullpen deserves credit for keeping the run differential at 5, and preserving any hopes that their hitters had of bridging the gap. Chad Gaudin, Joe Kennedy, Kiko Calero, and Joe Blanton held the Tigers to just 6 baserunners in the final 5.1 innings.

Mark Kotsay had the wrong kind of double-double in Game 1 – -he grounded into 2 double-plays


The A’s offense was dismal in this game, although Oakland put plenty of runners on the basepaths. The A’s managed 8 hits in the ballgame, with 3 of them going for extra bases — all three of those were doubles. Having less than one hit per inning is not a problem, so long as those hits are timely, and the baserunners are driven in. Unfortunately, hitting with runners on base was not part of the Athletics’ vocabulary on Tuesday night; instead, Oakland grounded into 4 double-plays. Credit the Tigers’ pitchers for performing in the clutch and escaping the tough situations they faced.

As I mentioned earlier, Brandon Inge was spectacular at the plate in Game 1. The 3rd-baseman went 3-for-3, finishing a triple short of the cycle, while scoring twice and driving in two runs (one on a solo homerun). Adding a walk in his final plate appearance, Inge led the Tigers’ lineup from the 9-hole, reaching base all 4 times he came to the plate, and sparking almost every offensive rally the Tigers generated in the opener.  This performance wasn’t a huge surprise to me, because Inge had a terrific 2006 regular season that almost nobody seems to know about.  Detroit’s 3rd-baseman hit .253 with 27HR and 83RBI this season out of the 9th spot in the lineup.  Inge is one of the very few 25+HR hitters that almost no one outside of Detroit knows about.  If he continues turning in performances like tonight’s, Inge will be on everyone’s radar very soon. 

Player of the Game: Brandon Inge

FINAL SCORE: Tigers 5 — A’s 1

Pitchers of Record:

W: Nate Robertson

L: Barry Zito

Detroit leads the ALCS 1-0, with Game 2 scheduled for Wednesday. Justin Verlander takes the hill for Detroit in that one, with the A’s sending Esteban Loaiza to the mound, trying to even the Series.

_______________________________________________________________

Trivia Time!

Yesterday’s Question and the correct Answer…

Q: During the 2000 World Series, one Yankees reliever earned 2 wins, while pitching 4.1 perfect innings and recording 7 strikeouts. Who was he?

A: Mike Stanton — the lefty reliever pitched for the Nationals and Giants in 2006

Today’s question is…

The Tigers last won the World Series in 1984, when manager Sparky Anderson became the first skipper to win a World Series while managing a team from both the AL and NL. With which team did NL team did Anderson win a World Series, and what year did he do it?

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