Brandon Inge hit a solo home run and RBI double from the bottom of the order, Ivan Rodriguez also homered and Nate Robertson pitched the Detroit Tigers past the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Tuesday 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 -- was last night, when 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," he added.
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 chances, then had another double play in the fifth.
Zito, Oakland's lone All-Star this season, didn't allow a hit until Inge -- the No. 9 hitter -- lofted a drive that stayed just inside the left-field foul pole with two outs in the third.
Curtis Granderson followed with a double, then Placido Polanco walked on Zito's 56th pitch. After Casey followed with a walk, pitching coach Curt Young paid a visit to the mound before Magglio Ordonez's infield single that five-time Gold Glover Eric Chavez bobbled at third base.
Zito threw 38 pitches, 18 balls, in the inning after needing only 31 to get through the first two, and he gave way to Chad Gaudin after only 3 2-3 innings. His line: seven hits, five runs, three walks and no strikeouts on 92 pitches.
Inge was 3-for-24 lifetime against Zito coming in. But just like they did the final three games with the Yankees, the Tigers found success against a starting pitcher they'd had trouble with in the past.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, Casey hit a grounder to shortstop, took one step and then grabbed his left leg in pain. He made it about halfway down the line and was thrown out to end the inning. Manager Jim Leyland and a trainer came out to tend to Casey, who hobbled to the Tigers' clubhouse after the inning.
Casey was in a walking boot after the game. Carlos Guillen will likely shift from shortstop to fill in at first.