The Tigers defeated the Athletics 5 to 1 in the first game of the American League Championship tonight. From the start, this game had a different feel from any game in the Yankee series. In contrast to the tension and excitement of the first round, this one felt almost like a regular season game. It's now like June or July again where I expect good things to happen in each game. Here are my additional thoughts on the game:
Oakland had 13 base runners tonight but could not take advantage of the opportunities. They hit into a league leading 170 double plays during the regular season and that trend continued tonight as they were doubled up 4 times. Craig Monroe also frustrated the Athletics with a highlight reel diving catch to rob Milton Bradley ending the 5th.
Nate Robertson had another shaky start allowing 6 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings. He was helped out by the double play balls but he also took care of business himself in the 4th. With runners at second and third and nobody out, he proceeded to strike out Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro in succession.
Fernando Rodney pitched for the first time since the regular season and was not rusty at all. He looked pretty sharp in 2 innings of work.
The Tigers continued to get good at bats tonight. They are still being aggressive but they seem to be in much better control in the post-season than they were at the end of the regular season. They had 11 hits and also managed to draw 5 walks (a pretty hight total for them).
Every day of the post-season, there is a new hitting hero. Tonight it was Brandon Inge. Inge, who had a rough series versus the Yankees, started the scoring with a 3rd inning home run and later singled, double and walked. Ivan Rodriguez, who also struggled a bit in the first round, hit a solo home run and a single.
Sean Casey suffered a muscle spasm in his calf trying to break out of the batter's box on a grounder to first in the 6th inning. He had to leave the game but, according to Fox broadcasters, felt a little better later and might not miss much additional time, if any. There is official word on how long he'll be out though. I imagine they won't know until tomorrow.
When Casey left the game, Carlos Guillen moved over at first base and Ramon Santiago took over at shortstop. Guillen then made an error on a grounder to first in the 7th inning. The error turned out to be harmless but it made me wonder again why Jim Leyland is carrying 3 utility infielders and no real back-up first baseman on the post-season roster. Chris Shelton seems like a better option than having both Santiago and Neifi Perez on the roster.
Tomorrow, it will be Justin Verlander versus Esteban Loaiza at 8:00. Verlander could benefit from the shadows again as it will be 5:00 in Oakland.