Robertson, Tigers roll past O's
Detroit left-hander delivers 7 1/3 scoreless innings
BALTIMORE -- Jim Leyland and the Tigers have answered numerous questions in the first week of the season about the team's offensive struggles. But pitching was the subject of discussion in the clubhouse after Tuesday's game -- specifically the work of left-hander Nate Robertson.
Robertson shut down the Orioles, throwing 7 1/3 shutout innings and taking some pressure off the Detroit offense. Curtis Granderson had two hits and scored twice as the Tigers scratched out a 3-1 victory over the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (3-5) had been hot lately, scoring 25 runs while winning three of their last four from the Yankees and Tigers (4-3). But Robertson was in complete command from the start, and the Orioles never really threatened or put him in trouble.
"He was tremendous," Leyland said. "He pitched an outstanding ballgame for us, and that's what we needed. He just mixed his pitches well. He's a bulldog."
Robertson threw 86 pitches, including 58 for strikes before Leyland pulled him with Kevin Millar coming up in the eighth. The right-hander struck out five, walked just one and only twice allowed runners as far as second base.
"I had three pitches [working]," Robertson said. "These guys will put up some runs in a hurry, especially in this ballpark."
The Tigers manufactured all three of their runs in this game. Two scored on Brian Roberts' throwing error, which Placido Polanco helped cause by crashing into the Orioles second baseman as he made the relay throw on a possible inning-ending double play.
Granderson hustled a single into a double to start the eighth, moved to third on a wild pitch and later scored. The Tigers got eight hits, but they went just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. But their defense was solid behind Robertson and relievers Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones.
They also turned two double plays, and Granderson threw out Miguel Tejada trying to stretch a single into a double in the seventh. Second baseman Polanco ended the game by making a diving stop of a Nick Markakis grounder and throwing out the Baltimore right fielder.
"Most of the time, anyway, without the offense, you're going to have to win with pitching and defense," Robertson said. "We're just biding our time until the offense heats up, and they're going to be fine. Defense is a pitcher's best friend, and they made plays [tonight]."
The Tigers got a scare early when Markakis fouled a ball that bounced off catcher Ivan Rodriguez's toe on his left foot. Rodriguez clearly was in pain for several minutes, but he stayed in the game.
Leyland was concerned after the game, saying he might alter his plans to rest Rodriguez on Thursday in Toronto and instead sit him in the final game of this series. However, Rodriguez said he expected to be fine for Wednesday's contest.
"It's all right," Rodriguez said of the little toe on his left foot. "It's a little bit sore right now. I'm going to do some treatment right now and be ready tomorrow."
Detroit took command thanks to some Orioles fielding problems in the sixth, scoring twice without getting a ball out of the infield. Neifi Perez led off with an infield single off the glove of starter Jaret Wright. Granderson then walked, and Wright left with tightness in his right shoulder.
"[He] actually used his slider a little more, so he had his curveball, fastball, slider [and] changeup working," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. "I thought he kept the hitters off balance."
Scott Williamson came on to face Polanco, who laid down a perfect bunt towards third base. The Orioles got their signals crossed, and no one played the bunt, letting Polanco reach with an infield single and loading the bases with no outs.
After Gary Sheffield was called out on strikes, Magglio Ordonez hit what looked like an inning-ending double-play ball to Tejada, but Roberts' relay throw bounced past first baseman Millar and let Perez and Granderson score for a 2-0 lead. Ordonez was credited with a fielder's choice and one RBI.
Wright was charged with two runs -- one earned -- on four hits in five-plus effective innings.
Granderson got the double to start the eighth and later scored on a Polanco sacrifice fly for a 3-0 advantage.
Zumaya came on for Robertson with one out in the bottom half of the frame, and he got Millar before giving up a solo homer to Corey Patterson. The right-hander finished the inning, and Jones got the Orioles in order in the ninth for his fourth save.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.