Tigers capture Game 1 on road

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Brandon Inge, Nate Robertson and the Detroit Tigers are showing no signs of slowing down in the AL playoffs.

Inge hit a solo home run and RBI double from the bottom of the order, Ivan Rodriguez also homered and Robertson pitched the Tigers past the Oakland Athletics 5-1 Tuesday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

The Tigers battered Barry Zito, turned four double plays and once again relied on their flame-throwing relievers. Only one thing went wrong: Sean Casey, Detroit's No. 3 hitter, left early because of an injured left calf and expected to be out a couple of days.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series -- a rematch of the 1972 ALCS -- is tonight, with Oakland's Esteban Loaiza facing Justin Verlander.

Fresh off surprising the New York Yankees in four games in the opening round, the typically free-swinging Tigers worked the count against Zito.

"We thought if we slowed down against him a little bit, it would work a little better," Inge said.

The A's ace retired the first eight batters he faced before running into trouble, with 10 of the last 13 Tigers facing him reaching base on the way to a 5-0 lead.

"After that I started to nitpick a little bit instead of coming right after them," Zito said. "This is the playoffs. If you don't get ahead in the count it becomes more exposed than in the regular season."

The wild-card Tigers showed off their gloves, too, tying a league championship series record for double plays, last accomplished by the San Francisco Giants exactly 19 years earlier -- on Oct. 10, 1987.

Robertson, who lost Game 1 against the Yankees in his postseason debut, threw five shutout innings to win for the first time in the Coliseum. The 29-year-old lefty struck out the side to escape a fourth-inning jam after Frank Thomas drew a leadoff walk and Jay Payton doubled him to third.

Oakland never trailed in its division-series sweep of the Minnesota Twins, taking quick leads in all three games. This time, the A's grounded into double plays to end both the second and third innings to squander early scoring chanc-es, then had another double play in the fifth.

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