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Tigers putting Game 3 in hands of Robertson



Published: Tue, October 24, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Shaking off rust might be one of the pitcher's biggest challenges.

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- 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, who then thought it over for a moment.

"Well," Jones said, "he's got the gum thing."

When Tigers need rally

When the Tigers are in need of a late-game rally, it's "Gum Time" for Robertson and teammates willing to cram as much Big League Chew as possible in their mouths.

"It started against the Yankees early this year and it was a moment caught on TV. The fans loved it, so it took off," he said. "Anybody wants to start a rally cry. Our identity is with gum here in Detroit. Some people have monkeys, some have Thunder Stix."

How much gum has Robertson packed between his cheeks to help Detroit come back in a game this season?

"I've attempted two," he said, a bit sheepishly. "It's not completely in my mouth when I do that."

The Tigers hope Robertson can keep the gum in the pouch with 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 52/3 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.

Has 13-13 record

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. "If he got better run support this season that wouldn't have been the case because he would've won about 17 games."

Carpenter has been an October puzzle. After going 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in two first-round starts against San Diego, he struggled against the New York Mets in the NL championship series. He gave up five runs in five innings in Game 2, escaping a loss when the Cardinals rallied, then lost Game 6 while allowing two runs in six innings.

Both those starts were at Shea Stadium. Game 3, of course, is at the new Busch Stadium, where he was 8-4 with a 1.81 ERA.

"Obviously pitching at home in front of your fans in your home stadium, it's nice, it's fun," he said. "We're looking forward to coming here and playing in front of our home crowd and in front of our fans and see some excitement, hopefully."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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