Robertson tries to revive Tigers

Robertson in charge of reversing Tigers' ways

Nate Robertson got to know Josh Beckett just after the Marlins drafted Beckett second overall in 1999, the same year Florida took Robertson in the fifth round. They were roommates when Robertson was first called up to the Major Leagues in 2002. He was among those to call Beckett and congratulate him when the Red Sox signed him to a contract extension earlier this year.

Now that they're facing each other for the first time in their careers, Robertson said, it's all about business. And right now, frankly, the business needs him.

The Tigers head into Boston sporting a season-high five-game losing streak, the last three coming over the weekend in Chicago to a White Sox team that has gained 4 1/2 games on Detroit over the last six days. The Tigers used five relievers in Sunday's series finale, and though most of them could take the ball again on Monday, it would benefit them further into the series if Robertson can pitch deep into the opener.

That said, if Fenway Park isn't rough enough on left-handed pitchers, putting them up against the Red Sox lineup with a playoff-like atmosphere adds to the level of difficulty.

"It has a lot to do with what kind of team you're going up against," Robertson said. "I'd say they're a different team at home than they are on the road. They're a good team no matter what. But I try not to think too much about dimensions. It's an offensive park in the sense that so many different things can happen when the ball's put in play, especially in the outfield. It can be kind of tough to defend. But we'll be prepared for it."

The easiest way to defend against the park's effects is to keep the ball on the ground, something Robertson is able to do when he has his two-seamer working. Though he lost a 4-2 decision to the Twins last Tuesday at Comerica Park, he held Minnesota to three runs in seven innings, inducing 15 ground balls compared to eight in the air. His ground ball/fly ball ratio is better than 2-to-1 over his last four starts, and his season ratio of 1.55 is ninth highest among American League starters.

Though he's winless in four career starts against the Red Sox, Robertson doesn't have Boston's dangerous duo to blame. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are a combined 3-for-19 lifetime against Robertson with no extra-base hits, two RBIs and four strikeouts.

As for Fenway Park, Tigers manager Jim Leyland compared it to Wrigley Field, a ballpark he enjoys more for the atmosphere than for the aesthetics. The visiting clubhouse has some of the cozier confines in baseball, including a creaky walkway that leads to the dugout. The Green Monster makes it seem like the left fielder is playing shortstop, he said, but the former third-base coach believes that the short dimensions actually emphasize baserunning.

"I think baserunning's a big factor there," he said, "and I think the guys who are good, instinctive baserunners can really help a third-base coach out there, and guys that aren't good baserunners can make it painful for you. Some guys who are on first base when that ball's hit to left field, they know it's going to be off the wall, and other guys don't. They hesitate and wait to see for sure if it's off the wall. Your baserunners are going to give you that advantage. But it's a fun place to play, and I'm all for that stuff."

Of course, having baserunners involves the Tigers reaching base, something they struggled to do against the White Sox. They scored six runs in the three-game set, none after the fifth inning, and they went 3-for-14 for the series with runners in scoring position.

As Leyland admitted before Sunday's game, his team is struggling. "Normally," he said, "those types of things are nothing that a well-pitched game or a two- or three-run homer can't cure."

They didn't find the cure on Sunday, leaving catcher Ivan Rodriguez already thinking in Boston's direction immediately after Sunday's loss.

"We have to refocus again and try to do the things we need to do," Rodriguez said. "We played a good team. We have to refocus, go to Boston and win games."

Pitching matchup
DET: LHP Nate Robertson (10-8, 3.82 ERA)
Robertson gave up eight runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings in his only career start at Fenway Park last year.

BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (13-6, 4.92 ERA)
Things unraveled for Beckett after he retired the first 10 Royals he faced in his last start on Wednesday. He allowed three runs (two earned), all in the fourth, once he was given a four-run lead. He spaced out six hits and struck out five. Beckett has not faced Detroit this season. Monday's start marks his third against an AL Central foe in 2006.

Player to watch
Ortiz is 1-for-11 with three strikeouts lifetime against Robertson.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN Detroit

On radio
• WXYT-AM 1270

Up next
• Tuesday: Tigers (RHP Jeremy Bonderman, 11-5, 3.76) at Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 14-5, 3.89), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Tigers (RHP Justin Verlander, 14-5, 2.95) at Red Sox (LHP David Wells, 1-2, 6.23), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Tigers (LHP Kenny Rogers, 11-6, 4.36) vs. Rangers (TBA), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.