Cards face Tigers' overlooked starter

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter is the undisputed ace of the St. Louis staff, the NL's reigning Cy Young Award winner and the center of the Cardinals' hopes to win Game 3 of the World Series.

Then there's Nate Robertson, who takes the mound for Detroit with no such accolades. It's OK, he's used to being overlooked.

Even on the Tigers' staff, where the crafty veterans and the hard-throwing rookies get all the attention, Robertson is a relative afterthought.

"He might be the dreaded middle child," said Detroit's 38-year-old closer Todd Jones.

The Tigers are looking for a strong start tonight, when the Series shifts to St. Louis for Game 3. They need the left-hander to pitch like he did against Oakland in the AL championship series on Oct. 10 -- with five scoreless innings -- not like he did against New York in the division series, when he surrendered seven runs over 5 2/3 innings.

Shaking off rust might be one of his biggest challenges.

"It's been a couple weeks, my last appearance was Game 1 of the ALCS," he said. "I've done a couple 'pens, but I'm really ready to get out there."

Robertson, who opened Detroit's first two series on the mound, knows Game 3 could prove to be pivotal.

"It's a five-game series now," he said. "I'm excited about it being my first appearance on this stage."

He has been out of the spotlight for much of the year, taking a back seat to 41-year-old Kenny Rogers, Jones and fireballing rookies Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya.

Robertson was one of the reasons the Tigers advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 19 years, however, with a 13-13 record and a career-best 3.84 ERA.

"Nate is appreciated in the clubhouse, but he's kind of the unsung guy on our staff on the outside," pitcher Zach Miner said.

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