DETROIT — This is exactly what Nate Robertson was hoping for when he had left elbow surgery in June.
Robertson pitched six shutout innings in his second start of the season, Placido Polanco hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th and the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians 4-3 yesterday to complete a three-game sweep.
Robertson spent the first part of the year in the bullpen, then missed two months after having surgery to remove fatty deposits from his elbow. He gave up two runs, one earned, over four innings in his first start against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“I knew when I had the surgery that everything was going to have to go right for me to even have a chance of pitching again this season,” he said. “But this is exactly what I've had my mind set on doing. I wanted to come back, I wanted to start, and I wanted to help us win games in the pennant race.”
The Tigers increased their lead in the AL Central to five games over the idle Twins. Catcher Gerald Laird said Wednesday that it was starting to feel like Detroit is in “the driver's seat,” but manager Jim Leyland cautioned against such talk after the Tigers' latest win.
“I don't like comments like that,” he said. “There's no reason for them. Our players should feel good about themselves and what they've done, but there's no need to talk. Just go out there and keep doing it.”
Zach Miner (6-4) pitched 21/3 hitless innings to get the win, shutting down the Indians after they pushed across three runs in the eighth to tie it.
“The way we're swinging the bat, especially at home, I knew it was just a matter of time,” Miner said. “I knew that if I could get a couple innings, we'd be bound to score a run.”
Ryan Raburn led off the Detroit 10th with a double. Rafael Perez (4-3) then intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera and issued an unintentional free pass to Magglio Ordonez. Polanco followed with a fly ball to center and Raburn scored standing up.
“I got banged around pretty well in the celebration, but it's worth it to get a win like this,” Raburn said.
The Indians dropped to 4-11 against Detroit this season.
“We've played a lot of games against them this year that were one run or tied, but we haven't done a good job of finishing them off,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
Fausto Carmona allowed three runs and four hits in 61/3 innings for Cleveland. He walked five and struck out four.
“My sinker was working really well, and the Tigers' aggressive approach helped me get outs,” he said. “I just started to work too fast, and it hurt me.”
Curtis Granderson homered on Carmona's third pitch and Clete Thomas added a two-run triple in the seventh. Carmona walked Adam Everett and Granderson before Thomas' big hit.
NOTES: Granderson's drive was his fifth leadoff homer of the season and No. 22 for his career. ... Everett drew a career-high three walks. ... Ordonez batted twice after entering the game as a pinch hitter, and now has 421 plate appearance on the season. He needs 36 more in Detroit's final 29 games to trigger his $18 million option for 2010.