Robertson's superstition to throw wads of gum into his mouth became a Detroit phenomenon in 2006 during the summer and then during the Tigers' run to the World Series. Eventually, it grew a little too big, and he lost his taste for constantly chewing gum in the late innings.
Robertson said he hadn't done it since. However, when the Tigers went to bat in the eighth inning Sunday against the Rays with a 3-1 deficit and looking for offense, Robertson decided to give it a shot.
"I went to [starter Justin] Verlander and said, 'We're going to try to get you a win,'" Robertson said. "So when Clete [Thomas] leads off with a double, [Verlander] tells me to keep on chewing."
By the time Placido Polanco stepped to the plate for his go-ahead homer, Robertson estimates he was chewing "eight or nine pieces" of gum. Unlike past years, it was sugarless, much to the relief of his dentist.
"After the inning, I spit it out," said Robertson.
Verlander, who got the win in the comeback victory, made a point to mention Robertson after the game.
"Nate pulled out Gum Time again," Verlander said, referring to Robertson's gum-chewing habit in rally situations. "Hadn't seen that since 2006. I kept yelling at him, 'Chew that gum!'"
He hadn't had a chance to do it at other times this year because he hadn't been in the Tigers dugout much. He spent the first three months of the season as a reliever, so he was usually out in the bullpen or on the mound during the late innings. He spent the past few weeks on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.