ALCS: Tigers vs. Athletics: Zito Gets Shelledby Brian Borawski
October 11, 2006
The Tigers are making this look easy. For the fourth straight game, they’ve gotten a very good outing from their starting pitcher, and for the third straight game they had at least three runs through the first four innings. When you combine those two elements, more times then not you’re going to walk away with a win.
Barry Zito went from very good to very bad in a hurry. The first eight Tigers went down in order before Brandon Inge hit a solo shot with two outs in the third. Curtis Granderson followed that up with a double, and all of sudden, Zito couldn’t get a batter out. Magglio Ordonez capped off the inning when he hit an infield single that Eric Chavez couldn’t quite handle to give the Tigers their second run of the inning.
The Tigers continued to pound Zito in the fourth, and after three more Tiger runs, he was done. He threw 92 pitches in only 4 2/3 innings. Give the Athletics' bullpen some credit though. Four different relievers held the Tigers scoreless through the final five frames, and despite the fact that the Athletics never got their bats going, they did at least give them the chance of coming back in this one.
Brandon Inge had a bad series against the Yankees. He was two for fifteen with six strikeouts, and he didn’t drive in a single run. Tonight, Inge was three for three with a home run, two runs and two RBIs.
A lot was made about the Oakland Athletics and the 170 times they hit into a double play during the regular season. True to form, the Athletics grounded into four double plays last night. Three of those double plays ended an inning.
The big inning for Nate Robertson was the bottom of the fourth inning. The Tigers had just extended their lead to five runs, and it looked like the Athletics might get some of that back. Frank Thomas led off with a walk, and then he moved to third on Jay Payton’s double. Jim Leyland visited the mound, and I think we’d all be curious to know what he said because Robertson went on to strikeout the side. Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher and Mark Scutaro all went down on strikes in succession, and neither of those two base runners scored.
The Tigers pen also did their job. Fernando Rodney threw two innings of shutout relief, and while the Athletics finally got on the board when they touched up Joel Zumaya for a run in the eighth, the A’s would have needed a miracle to win this one. Todd Jones walked the leadoff batter in the ninth, but even he got out of the inning unscathed.
To round things out with a few quick cuts, the Athletics went zero for thirteen with runners in scoring position. Sean Casey left the game with a calf injury. The replay looked pretty nasty, and hopefully Casey is okay.
This is a game I thought the Tigers would lose just based on the pitching match-up, but the Tigers find themselves ahead in this series 1-0. Tomorrow it’ll be Esteban Loaiza going up against rookie phenom Justin Verlander. This should be another good one.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.
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